When Pat Masson, Jonathan Markow, and I started chatting about the need to make it easier for technical and general managers to communicate meaningfully within their organization about open source software, I did not realize that several months later I would be crafting this posting in support of a Jasig project. Honestly though, I can not think of a better path, or at least one more likely, to result in some positive outcomes for those of us who want a healthy dialogue about the variety software, support, and sustainability options that present themselves. It will become obvious as this project moves along that I am not a technical manager, an IT professional, or a technician. I am a general manager and worse than that, I am a generalist. Although I have "openness leanings," I am not idealistically bound to any development, distribution, or licensing methodology. I support options that make sense for the organization - after all, that is my job. Once again, as mentioned earlier, I have openness leanings, and I think that it is because I get board easily and I like it when "common sense" stands the test of creative and thoughtful critique. So I tend to gravitate to communities of creative pragmatists - it makes me feel smart and I find comfort in a logically coherent argument that help provide the scaffolding for making good decisions consistently.
I feel smartest when I see a confluence of activities that help meet my needs or further my interests and I am in a position to act on the opportunity. In this case, it is the where the 2-3-98 project can extend the good work done through the OpenBRR, which was at one point was extended from its roots as a maturity model, into one that translated how maturity might be measured and compared across licensing, distribution, and support models. Fundamentally, the Jasig, 2-3-98 project is intended to help provide self-support for college and university administrators, managers, and practitioners wishing to take best advantage of open initiatives, in order to reduce costs and increase choice, which means that we are seeking ways to support decisions that benefit organizations. Almost all open initiatives are compared to more established an less open ways of doing things, so it seems to me that what we might do with OpenBRR as applied to software selection, may be generalized to other open activities. And this is why I am excited.
OpenBRR (Open Business Readiness Rating) is a maturity model that was intended to help support the decision making process by providing a framework to help determine how mature an OSS project is, if it is likely to become more mature, and if it is really production ready given the priorities and characteristics of the organization interested in deployment. Unfortunately, the OpenBRR community has been taken off line, at least temporarily. During the past few years, I must have mentioned the OpenBRR project dozens of times in a variety of settings. Each time that I mentioned the project it was in reference to how one might make sense of a procurement process that includes evaluation of OSS as well as proprietary software. I first saw this potential while working together with Michael Feldstein on a report that the Observatory on Boarderless Higher Education commissioned on the topic of OSS. After some time considering the level of confusion that existed around the treatment of OSS and procurement processes, which was confounded by numerous myths about OSS, and frankly proprietary software as well, we set about looking for a method that would help provide some clarity. As it turned out, we discovered that OpenBRR existed and would provide a wonderful platform. True to form, Michael came-up with a catchy title, and we started writing Apples to Apples: Guidelines for Comparative Evaluation of Proprietary and Open Educational Technology Systems. We worked with the OpenBRR community leaders and extended the maturity model to include a comparative element, which allowed a mapping between how one might translate characteristics in OSS and proprietary and commercialized options. Doing so would allow folks running procurement processes to better understand and assess the ability of an OSS community, for example, to provide support, relative to traditional metrics that may be applied to a proprietary vendor.
During our first brush with OpenBRR we expanded its functionality, but limited its application area from all Open Source Software, to educational technology, and then further focused our illustration of learning managment systems. It is my feeling though, that after 5 years of mentioning the OpenBRR, the 2-3-98 project might be an appropriate forum to not only support college and university administrators, managers, and practitioners wishing to take best advantage of open source software generally, but to further extend the model and see how well it can be applied to other types of open initiatives.
There are plenty of organizations that have formed over the past few years promoting the understanding and adoption of open source software, these include: The Canadian Association for Open Source (CLUE), Free Software Foundation, NonProfit Open Source Initiative, Open Source Advocacy on Facebook, Open Source Initiative,Open Source Software Institute, OSS Watch, SchoolForge, Software Freedom Dayhttp://www.spi-inc.org/, Software in the Public Interest, Inc., Spread Open Source, ...and many more. In addition,the tenets of free and open source software no drive a variety of non-technical initiatives across broad disiplines, including: Open Access (Directory of Open Access Repositories, EPrints, Open Archives Initiative, Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR), etc.) Open Education Resources (Connexions, Merlot, OER Commons, OER Consortium, UNESCO, Wikiversity, etc.),
Understand the qualities and attributes that enable openness
both Ken Udas and I are involved with EDUCAUSE's Openness Constituent Group. The problem with the Openness CG is that it is concensus and a think tank.