Archive for January, 2007

Open source options

Using Wordpress as the engine for this blog is exposing me to the reality of being an open source software user. One of the interviews I’ve done recently left me thinking about autonomy in the context of using open source software; in other words, the ability of open source users to choose which version they use and when to upgrade. I’ve just experienced this autonomy for myself.

Earlier this month, I upgraded to WP 2.0.6, thinking that I wouldn’t need to make any more software changes for a while. Three days later, Wordpress issued version 2.0.7, which fixed some security issues, among other things. This was followed a week later by a new release, WP 2.1.

I faced a dilemma: should I move straight to 2.1, or should I install 2.0.7 and wait for a bit? I certainly don’t want to be using a version with security problems, but do I want to be an early adopter of 2.1? After thinking this over for a few days, I decided to upgrade to 2.0.7 for the public version of my blog, and try 2.1 out on the development version on my iBook. So yesterday I installed 2.0.7 on the server, and like the previous upgrade, it took around 10 minutes and so far everthing is sweet.

Now I can take my time becoming familiar with the changes in 2.1, and install it when I’m ready, without feeling pressured. It’s nice to feel that I’m in control.

January 28th, 2007

More DVDs

The long weekend was another opportunity to catch up on DVDs. We started with Hoodwinked, an alternative Little Red Riding Hood. I picked the villain early, but it was still fun to see how a hard-boiled police procedural style was combined with some unexpected plot twists. The second one was Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which was very impressive. An alternative reality story of a dashing pilot, played by Jude Law, and an ambitious journalist, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, trying to save the world. Apparently most of the movie was filmed in front of blue screens, and most of the background generated using CGI.

January 27th, 2007

Taking stock

Today I managed to find enough clear time to stop and reflect on where I’ve gotten to with this stage of my research, and what I’ll do next. I’ve scheduled a meeting with my supervisors next Wednesday, and need to write a short progress report before the meeting.

So far I’ve completed 6 face-to-face interviews, involving a total of 8 people (one interview was a group discussion), and 7 email interviews. I’ve transcribed all of the face-to-face interviews and sent the transcripts back for review. One more email interview is partly completed, and two other people have agreed to be interviewed by email, but haven’t yet sent me any responses to the initial questions.

The respondents represent three different open source projects (one large, one medium, and one small), and quite a few different roles (such as core developer, local developer, project manager, project sponsor, and end user). I’ve learned that people see themselves in a wider range of project-related roles than most of the open source research literature suggests. Marketing and promotion is one aspect that many people have mentioned, which suggests to me that a satisfied open source project participant becomes an advocate (or evangelist) for their project.

The approach I’m using for this stage involves purposive interviews, where I select participants from a range of projects and backgrounds, and keep going until I’m not learning anything new. I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Most of the people I’ve been dealing with have been involved with their projects for several years, and I’d like to have a few more relatlve ‘newbies’ involved.

My plan for the next month or so is to carry out more interviews, complete the data analysis, and then start revising the model I developed for my research proposal. Then I’ll be developing a web-based survey to test the model. This is likely to take a month or so to get set up, given what I’ve recently learned about the survey tool I’ll be using. So it looks as if the survey will be ready in May or June.

One of the other things I’ve learned about research is that timing is important, and mine’s not very good. Sending out the first round of invitations at (American) Thanksgiving wasn’t a good idea, and then of course the second lot happened just before Christmas. I’m hoping that things will be a bit smoother now that the holiday season is over, and people’s routines are returning to normal.

January 26th, 2007

EU finds open source cost savings

It’s nice to have my intuition confirmed by research. CNET news reports that an EU research report has found that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of open source software is lower than that of proprietary software. The article doesn’t give much detail about the study itself, and I haven’t had time to search for it, but apparently the findings are based on a study of businesses using open source software in six EU countries. Other findings are that short term costs can be higher because of the cost of staff training (but of course that’s true for any new software implementation), and curiously, that some staff might feel undervalued if they’re asked to work with ‘free’ software. Presumably this comes from a perception that they’re not worth spending money on. What this says to me is that the way open source software is introduced is important, and the benefits need to be made clear to ‘muggles’.

(added January 28, 2007) The full report is 287 pages long. I suggest starting with the executive summary. There are some interesting comments about using open source software in education, and the benefits for students.

January 20th, 2007

Four DVDs and a movie

One consequence of the bad weather during the break is that we were able to catch up on some films. Here’s a list of what we saw, with some brief comments.

  1. Spiderman 2. We missed this the first time around. It was great. I always like Tobey Maguire, and he plays geeky types so well.
  2. King Kong, the Peter Jackson version. The verdict: too long and a bit self-indulgent (i.e. too many dinosaurs). King Kong and the rest of the CGI effects were amazingly realistic. Can we believe anything we see in on screen any more? My only other comment is that when King Kong fought the dinosaurs I was reminded of a kung fu movie.
  3. Grave of the Fireflies. An early anime film from Studio Ghibli. The story of a Japanese teenager and his young sister trying to survive toward the end of World War II, with a depressing (but probably realistic) portrayal of human nature.
  4. Syriana. Another pessimistic movie about the oil industry and its influence in the Middle East. Very well done, and George Clooney was almost unrecognisable.
  5. La Doublure (or The Valet in English). The movie. Only the French do comedy like this. A light-hearted farce with Daniel Auteuil in good form as an amoral company chief executive, trying to save his marriage without losing his mistress.

    January 16th, 2007

Growing acceptance of open source software

Will 2007 be the year open source finally becomes mainstream in the U.S. library community?

Two of the members of the LITA Top Tech Trends panel have included open source software on their lists of 2007 top trends; see the LITA blog entries by Thomas Dowling and Karen G. Schneider on January 13th. I wonder if any of the other panelists will mention it?

In addition, Lorcan Dempsey has blogged about Equinox Systems, a company set up by some of the people behind the Evergreen ILS to provide support and software customisation. Lorcan also highlighted some of Koha’s new features as implemented in the Nelsonville Public Library in another blog posting. LibLime is the company supporting Nelsonville, and I understand that they’re primarily responsible for these features. There are now three U.S.-based companies supporting open source software for the library community: IndexData, LibLime, and now Equinox. IndexData seems to have carved out its own niche, but it appears that both LibLime and Equinox offer support for Evergreen. I see an important benefit of open source software in that it has the potential to free organisations from reliance on a single vendor. Open source software users could even choose to have support from more than one source, for example, choosing a company with expertise in searching to support the discovery module (AKA the OPAC), while they might use their own staff to support circulation. Time will tell to what extent this is a realistic option; it will also of course depend on the types of contracts these companies prefer to use.

I’m not sure if this has any implications for my research project, but I hope that it will increase people’s interest in the results. For people who haven’t started at the beginning of this blog, I’m looking at factors that influence open source software participant satisfaction with the software, and in particular, how the factors vary with people’s involvement with the project.

January 15th, 2007

Upgrading to WordPress 2.0.6

This morning I upgraded to WordPress 2.0.6. It took about 15 minutes, and the only change I’ve needed to reapply (so far) is the change to pluggable-functions.php to add a header to the mail notification of a new comment. Needless to say, this confirms that choosing WordPress was a good decision. Earlier in the week I tried installing it on my iBook, and that went smoothly as well.

The nice thing about this upgrade is that it provides better support for Safari, and I can use the HTML quick tags when writing new posts or pages. Now I just need to learn to include images in my posts - I’ve had a request for pictures of New Zealand to liven things up a bit.

1 comment January 12th, 2007

Back to business (or should that be research?)

It’s hard to believe that it’s already January 8th. The holidays went by very quickly, even though Wellington has had its coldest December since records began.

I didn’t just laze around, though. I did manage to fit in one more interview and finished transcribing two others. I have at least one more interview to do later this week, and there are still a few email interviews in various stages of completion. I am starting to wonder if some of my email messages have fallen into a trench somewhere in the Southern Cross cable (or more likely fallen into a spam trap somewhere), and I’ll be sending out follow up messages later this week.

To pick up where I left off interviewing myself, the next question is about my involvement with open source projects. I’m not directly involved with any library OSS projects, except as an observer/lurker. I’ve written the odd article and given a few presentations featuring case studies of various projects, so the best term to describe me is probably a ’supporter’. I do use some open source software (like this blog) and have set up the LIANZA IT-SIG wiki, which uses the PmWiki engine. I’m currently creating some content for the ‘Five Weeks to a Social Library’ course being organised by a group of North American library bloggers. My role has been to organise an interview between my husband and Patrick Michaud, that will be published as a podcast. They did the interview in late October, and now I need to to a bit of editing before submitting it to the course site. I’m planning on using Audacity (another open source project) for that.

January 8th, 2007


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