Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Freedom and Fairness on the Web

There is an ongoing debate about freedom and fairness on the web. I'm coming from the free and open source software community. From this perspective it's very clear that the freedoms to use, share, and modify software are the cornerstones of sustainable software development. They create the common base on which we can all build and unleash the value of software which is said to eat the world. And the world seems to more and more agree to that.

But how does this look like with software we don't run ourselves, with software which is provided as a service? How does this apply to Facebook, to Google, to Salesforce, to all the others which run web services? The question of freedom becomes much more complicated there because software is not distributed so the means how free and open source software became successful don't apply anymore.

The scandal around data from Facebook being abused shows that there are new moral questions. The European General Data Protection Regulation has brought wide attention to the question of privacy in the context of web services. The sale of GitHub to Microsoft has stirred discussions in the open source community which relies a lot on GitHub as kind of a home for open source software. What does that mean to the freedoms of users, the freedoms of people?

I have talked about the topic of freedom and web services a lot and one result is the Fair Web Services project which is supposed to give some definitions how freedom and fairness can be preserved in a world of software services. It's an ongoing project and I hope we can create a specification for what a fair web service is as a result.

I would like to invite you to follow this project and the discussions around this topic by subscribing to the weekly Fair Web Services Newsletter I maintain for about a year now. Look at the archive to get some history and sign up to get the latest posts fresh to your inbox.

The opportunities we have with the web are mind-boggling. We can do a lot of great things there. Let's make sure we make use of these opportunities in a responsible way.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mapping Open Source Governance Models

I already posted the Seven Lessons of Open Source Governance from my talk at FOSS Backstage. Another part of the talk was about a project to map open source governance models. The idea is to have a machine-readable collection of data about how different projects implement their governance and a web page showing that as an overview. This should help with learning from what others have done and provide a resource for further analysis. It's meant as a map, not a navigation system. You still will have to think about what is the right thing to do for your project.


The project is up on GitHub right now. For each project there is a YAML file collecting data such as project name, founding date, links to web sites, governance documents, statistics, or maintainer lists. It's interesting to look into the different implementations of governance there. There is a lot of good material, especially if you look at the mature and well-established foundations such as The Apache Foundation or the Eclipse Foundation. I'm also looking into syncing with some other sources which have similar data such as Choose A Foundation or Wikidata.

The web site is minimalistic now. We'll have to see for what proves to be useful and adapt it to serve these needs. Having access to the data of different projects is useful but maybe it also would be useful to have a list of code of conducts, a comparison of organisation types, or other overview pages.


If you would like to contribute some data about the governance on an open source project which is not listed there or you have more details about one which is already listed please don't hesitate to contribute. Create a pull request or an open an issue and I'll get the information added.

This is a nice small fun project. SUSE Hack Week gives me a bit of time to work on it. If you would like to join, please get in touch.

Freedom and Fairness on the Web

There is an ongoing debate about freedom and fairness on the web. I'm coming from the free and open source software community. From this...