Running Open Technology Development Projects


Posted: March 11, 2016 | By: John Scott

Step 5: Establish Collaboration

Establishing collaboration isn’t the same as creating a one-way communications strategy.  Collaboration involves an easy interchange of ideas among many perspectives (including industry, academia and other government agencies offices and labs) to produce a better result than any one of them could have achieved separately.

When opening a formerly closed project, be sensitive to the magnitude of the change.  Ensure that all its existing developers understand that a big change is coming. Explain it, tell them that the initial discomfort is perfectly normal, and reassure them that it’s going to get better.  Work to counter lapses into private discussions between long-time developers, and encourage their migration to community forums such as mailing lists.  [Fogel2009]

Since some people will struggle with the openness of an OTD project, it is important to stress the need for openness.  Point to guidance such as the current administration guidelines and mandates on transparency, and on the DoD 2009 memo on open source software which mandates that software be treated as data and shared appropriately. To quote the 2009 memo:

“Software source code and associated design documents are “data” as defined by DoD Directive 8320.02 (reference (h)), and therefore shall be shared across the DoD as widely as possible to support mission needs.”

There are of course discussions that must be kept closed to the public, such as company source selection and company proprietary data. But every attempt should be made to open up the software development process as much as possible.  To simplify governance, the preferred method is to use an OSS license unless national interest dictates otherwise.  The government should also require contractors and software integrators to organize their projects so that they are continuously transparent and open to the government for remote inspection.

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