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Kit Plummer
Software Engineer :: Techitect :: Evangelist
kitplummer@gmail.com
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Citizenship

Starting another post with a definition, courtesy of Princeton, let’s consider citizenship as “the status of a citizen with rights and duties”. Rights and duties. Hmmn, sounds an awful lot like a two-way street.

At the risk of offending someone – Zed Shaw, almost infamous for calling out the Rails community as a bunch of spoiled babies (now withdrawn), has recently sent out another great raw read on the value of the GPL to the individual developer. The reason: too many take for granted the “freeness” (free as in $0.00) of Open Source software, without any contribution, let alone the required attribution. I’m for sure guilty. At the same time I find myself in the (oft lonely) position of being an Open Source evangelist in the least likely world of military-use software, where closed is more than the norm.

I often hear “its OK to use Open Source” in my projects [which is a good thing, especially when thinking as a taxpayer]. But, I’m growing tired of this selfish one-way attitude from above. As Zed poignantly drives even Open Source developers are in it for the money. Accenture is rapidly moving towards Open Source alternatives for every possible solution stack we discuss with clients – and every substitution offering has a commercial entity (to ensure appropriate levels of support and performance). While moving in the right direction – it falls short in some regards. This stance doesn’t account for all of the very high-quality OSS libraries, frameworks and applications that we could use in our custom developed solutions that don’t have a parent organization. Accenture has a great suite of OSS policies in place to protect our client’s interest with regard to OSS, as it should. But, again falling short – these policies doesn’t help me as a “software engineer” working with a Jabber plugin for Grails. Point is there is an inherent citizenship in Open Source software which we ALL should be cognizant of, regardless of whether we are consuming or producing it. And, most importantly policy must reflect the willingness to be a good citizen.

Ok, so what does this have to do with BCIP, which is to be a “firewalled” infrastructure providing “services” to military designers and developers (solution providers)? We need to learn from the licensing mantras – to ensure that our ecosystem provides the 3-branches of governance in order to promote the highest quality of citizenship possible. This is especially true as we espouse people over projects in our philosophical thinking. GPL isn’t just a good idea for “that” side of the fence. We need to figure out how we can create “ports of embarkation” for our DoD-developed software that CAN flow back up when necessary. We also need to ensure that our solution providers get the attribution and accolades that they deserve. BCIP must ensure that citizenship is the baseline for collaboration and potential emergent innovation.


As an aside, there’s been some great conversation about how to manage a Mil-OSS project – whether the optimum is hosting it under http://software.forge.mil (firewalled to those with DoD credentials) or under a GitHub environment. My call for a symbol server project has generated some interest – and definitely is dragging on the answer. I happen to believe the answer lies in the desire to reach a maximum usage potential. And, because the symbols I need to server of public domain (and not ITAR restricted) the project should be hosted on the Inet-at-large. This obviously raises lots of eyebrows, including those of my legal/asset council. Intellectual property is a strange bird. I obviously have little desire to make myself a legal target – as I only have the interest of my particular customer at interest. So, the discussion continues. Hopefully we can get something hacked by the summer Mil-OSS event. ;)


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