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Advantages of Open Source

Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 12:44 pm
by McDanielCA
Written by Ryan Heaton Wednesday, 23 April 2008

It's been five years now since I was first hired by the Church to work on the new FamilySearch Web site. It's been a thrilling ride. The project is vibrant and thriving, and its potential appears boundless. I believe that one of the reasons that this project continues to thrive is its open nature and involvement in open-source initiatives.

My specific work is associated with creating a public Web service interface that can be used to access the huge amounts of data that this project is designed to manage. The technologies we use are based on open-source libraries and development frameworks that have enabled us to focus our efforts on our own problem space rather than inefficiently spending time on reinventing the wheel. Not only do we consume open-source projects, we contribute to these initiatives. And there have even been a few open-source projects that found their roots here.
I believe that public involvement in technical communities is critical to the long-term vitality of a development project. I can think of at least four major benefits to being involved in these communities:

1. Improvement in the quality of the product. Engineers who are trained to go first to the community to look for solutions (rather than attempt to design their own solution) will often find that their problems have already been addressed by someone. Furthermore, a community-supported solution is often more complete, proven, and elegant than a proprietary solution.

2. Increase in the viability of employees. Engineers who have learned to be involved in external technical communities are more effective and efficient. Their skills will be more up-to-date and portable.

3. Involvement in industry trends. Organizations that have learned to integrate with external technical communities will be directly involved in the formation and identification of industry trends. By plugging in to the community, projects can keep open the flow of new ideas and reduce the risk of stagnation. Involvement in these communities helps to ensure that products will be beneficial.

4. Image and Respect. Organizations that are actively involved and contributing to external communities will more likely garner respect from other organizations and individuals. This respect will increase cooperation and attract good engineers and partners.

It's been five years now that I've been working on the new FamilySearch Web site. My skills are sharp and I'm enjoying the rush of riding the wave of cutting-edge technology. I work in an environment where we're encouraged to be involved in open-source initiatives and research. I love my job.

Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:20 pm
by rmrichesjr
I would add another advantage: Potential to fix or adapt open source if needed. For example, at home, I need my web browser to honor the 'geometry' X resource to force new browser windows to open at a specified location and size. Netscape did it, but Mozilla and Firefox don't. I patch the Firefox source to honor the geometry resource. Examples exist of commercial adaptation of open source code for purposes different from the original intended use.

Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 3:47 am
by marianomarini
I would add another advantage (6th). Even if immaterial, developing collaborative, instead of competitive, environment will increase friendship.
No one is forced to show their good against others bad. All being involved to "make things" better.

Tech and etic

Posted: Sat Sep 27, 2008 11:24 am
by marianomarini
I a ward in my stake I saw an advertisement for a Pc training class naming expressly Microsoft Office.
Is not this against church policy about using church buildings to promote commercial product?
I know technology today is compare reading and write in the past, or drive licence yersterday, but I think Open Source can provide us a way to teach technology to brothers and sisters without promote commercial products. Isn't?

Posted: Sat Sep 27, 2008 12:22 pm
by rmrichesjr
marianomarini_vi wrote:I a ward in my stake I saw an advertisement for a Pc training class naming expressly Microsoft Office.
Is not this against church policy about using church buildings to promote commercial product?
I know technology today is compare reading and write in the past, or drive licence yersterday, but I think Open Source can provide us a way to teach technology to brothers and sisters without promote commercial products. Isn't?


While policy discussions are not really appropriate for this forum, my understanding is consistent with what yours appears to be. (Disclaimer: Any opinion in the previous sentence is mine alone.)

If I understood correctly, Church CIO Joe Dehlin pretty much stated in the recent Online Tech Talk that the Church would not be switching clerks office computers away from Microsoft Corp's operating system any time soon. However, those computers do have Open Office installed. I would think an optional meeting to teach members how to use Open Office would be useful.

Posted: Sat Sep 27, 2008 3:18 pm
by russellhltn
marianomarini_vi wrote:I a ward in my stake I saw an advertisement for a Pc training class naming expressly Microsoft Office.
Is not this against church policy about using church buildings to promote commercial product?


It could be argued that this isn't promoting a product, but teaching employable skills. In the same classification as teaching typing. I don't know what the policy is on that. Even if I knew, the policy in your country could be different.

If you have concerns, I think you should bring them up with your local leaders.

Posted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 10:07 am
by marianomarini
rmrichesjr wrote:However, those computers do have Open Office installed. I would think an optional meeting to teach members how to use Open Office would be useful.

This is exactly what I think. Why teaching MS Office if church's computers has OpenOffice?
The reason I put such a question in this forum is merely because, even in this forum, someone say that MSOffice do things that OpenOffice does.
I, and all my family (wife included), use OOffice in daily basis with full of satisfaction, so I wonder if there is a technical reason to teach MSOffice instead of OpenOffice at church.