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George Roberts :: Blog :: Free, Libre, Open Source Software (Floss) and OSSWatch

July 24, 2008

On Monday 21 July four Emergers, Paul, Josie, Joe and I went to the OSS Watch Symposium, "Profiling the Community". I hope the Emerge community perspective added a dimension to the discussions, to which I'll post a link when I get it. I found the research communities' directions and nascent VRE (see here and here) very interesting. The model of the Experiment Life Cycle (ELC) has affinities with our own Users and Innovation Development Model (UIDM). The official Emerge presentation in slideshare is here. Or, you could read the story starting here. Some digital video is here.

I do become concerned that modeling-based (UIDM or ELC or any) investigations work best in reasonably narrowly defined domains where the orders of complexity are constrained. But, then can you extrapolate? Can you extrapolate from a FLOSS community forge perspective to a wider community perspective, e.g. teachers, lecturers, faculty, admin, staff and students using software at university anywhere?  Or rather, what can we learn from FLOSS communities that can be applied elsewhere?

I found the visualisation of data shared by Isreal Herraiz, of Libresoft, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Spain, very useful, though I would like to see such visualisations map exchanges and other connections between people. Larger communities, I suggest, will tend to be multi modal, with clusters (or mountains) of activity in particular areas. Some of these areas will be inter-dependent. Others will be independent and could spin off to form separate self-sustaining communities, but may stay for reasons of affinity and preference.

OSSWatch asked about next big things. Josie exposed the growing world of OSS social network solutions (slides). I put two related issues into our sights: widely distributed peer-to-peer (mesh) networks (I wrote about them here and here); and widely distributed data stores (bit torrent); or, One Laptop per Child and Pirate Bay.

Yes, there are questions about security, trust, authentication and all that on massively peer-to-peer networks. But, I expect there are solutions in a combination of small to medium-size institutional and civic federations with a trust ranking system like the Google page-rank and ad-rank algorithms (who trusts whom). Rather than striving for a pure binary trust/don't trust, zero/one, access/not in a situation you make it fuzzy 0.0-1.0 and all points between, and decide how tolerant you will be. This, I suggest, will be a new direction of challenge to the institutions of society: public and private. For instance, peer-to-peer, fast, VOIP networks (Skype) constitute at least a disruption to the telcos' markets; now imagine a world of peer-to-peer Skype phones (that work).

Similarly data integrity, provenance and related source criticisms are severely challenged by widely distributed data storage technology. Are there persistent watermarks that can authenticate data? If not, what knowledge can be trusted?

Analysis and synthesis, i.e. teaching and learning, in such a peer-to-peer, distributed-data environment will require fresh approaches a long way beyond the vle.

I enjoyed our discussions.

I look forward to meeting OSSWatch at ALT-C.

Overview for Keywords: community, direction, OSS, OSSWatch, standards, vre

Blogs with Keywords: community, direction, OSS, OSSWatch, standards, vre

Posted by George Roberts

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