Busted Update…Open Development/Government.
Just wanted to give props to Lucas Taylor for making a small, and needed, updated to the Busted feed service.
The details of the fix aren’t really all that important or exciting here. What is really cool, and worth sharing, is the actual process of collaboration.
This is how I think it went down. At the last Open Tucson shindig, which Lucas and I attended, we discussed a few ideas about how the group can participate in the opening of Tucson’s data sources and promote greater transparency within the local governments. One of the solutions, that actually started during our Great American Hackathon last year, was the retrofitting of the SunTran bus feed into a more usable and accessible format – and has been dubbed Busted (by me). Busted has since turned into an opportunity for further development as a data source for a few different ideas revolving around local-business advertising and mobile applications.
Because Busted is open source Lucas was not only able to access the data feed, but also the code that actually does the raw data transformations. Lucas found a small issue with one of the bus feeds. (In my opinion this is where things get really cool.) Because the code is hosted at http://github.com, a social coding and collaboration site, Lucas was able to “clone” my repository into his own personal environment and make the required changes. The key here is that he was able to do so without me even knowing – or having to gain permission to my repository. Lucas then made the fixes.
Obviously it doesn’t end here. Because most open source development is done, well, in the ope n – there are typical geographic distribution challenges to overcome. The software development world, long familiar with this requirement, has create various tools to help work with distributed code. One of those, and the backbone of Github, is called git. Git is distributed version control system (DVCS) that provides the “cloning” capability that allowed Lucas to copy my repository and work within his own environment. Git also provides an apparatus for distributing the changes that Lucas made, back to me, or anyone else for that matter (who might have also cloned my repository). Git calls this transaction a “pull request” and Github makes this dead simple by generating the request and sending it to me as message (email too). For me to incorporate Lucas’ fix it took a couple steps and voila, we’re now in sync and my repository has been updated and Busted has been made better. It took a single additional step for me to send the new Busted to t he “cloud” and affect the “live” feed.
All of this sounds really complex, or really easy – but let me assure it is closer to the latter. The value of data transparency is only the starting point for improving our governments. Transparency is required all the way out to the organizations and communities who are creating solutions. Open Tucson and all of the other “Government 2.0” organizations need more of this type of collaboration. Thanks to Lucas for the opportunity to highlight the coolness of “openness”.
[This is a copy of a post made to the Open Tucson Google group’s discussion forum, but it doesn’t have public access yet.]
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