The Innovations of Open Source Article Republished in IEEE Computing Edge’s April 2020 Issue

IEEE’s Computing Edge magazine is a practitioner-oriented publication that republishes particularly popular content from other IEEE publications. In the April 2020 issue, they republished last year’s The Innovations of Open Source article that I wrote to open the Computer magazine’s Open Source Expanded bimonthly column.

Best of all, it is free! (Original version, local copy.)

I didn’t know about the republication until someone pointed me to it. Check it out, if you missed the article the first time around.

Single-Vendor Open Source Firms (Dirk Riehle, IEEE Computer Column)

I’m happy to report that the seventh article in the Open Source Expanded column of IEEE Computer has been published.

TitleSingle-Vendor Open Source Firms
KeywordsOpen source, single-vendor open source, commercial open source
AuthorsDirk Riehle, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg
PublicationComputer vol. 53, no. 4 (April 2020), pp. 68-72.

Abstract: This article present a particular business model for commercial open source firms, called the single-vendor open source model. This model has long dominated venture capital funding for open source software firms, contributing to the long-term sustainability of open source. As such, it is of high economic relevance. It is also an excellent example to show how open source licensing and related strategies really are just tools in the design of a business model and not philosophies.

As always, the article is freely available (local copy or HTML page).

Also, check out the full list of articles.

Managing Episodic Volunteers in Free/Libre/Open Source Software Communities (Article)

Abstract: We draw on the concept of episodic volunteering (EV) from the general volunteering literature to identify practices for managing EV in free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) communities. Infrequent but ongoing participation is widespread, but the practices that community managers are using to manage EV, and their concerns about EV, have not been previously documented. We conducted a policy Delphi study involving 24 FLOSS community managers from 22 different communities. Our panel identified 16 concerns related to managing EV in FLOSS, which we ranked by prevalence. We also describe 65 practices for managing EV in FLOSS. Almost three-quarters of these practices are used by at least three community managers. We report these practices using a systematic presentation that includes context, relationships between practices, and concerns that they address. These findings provide a coherent framework that can help FLOSS community managers to better manage episodic contributors.

Keywords: Best practices, community management, episodic volunteering, free software, open source software

Reference: Barcomb, A., Stol, KJ, Fitzgerald, B., & Riehle, D. (2020). Managing Episodic Volunteers in Free/Libre/Open Source Software Communities. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. To appear.

The paper can be downloaded as a PDF file.

Why I Gray-listed Github for Open Source

Most of my software development is through my professorship, where I guide my student teams in developing (mostly) open source software. We have clear rules in place for how and which open source can be used in our projects and which can’t, like any competent organization. Mostly, it is about license compliance. We owe this to the users of our open source projects as well as our industry partners.

As a small organization, we rely on rules rather than lengthy approval processes, component repositories, and the like. One rule is to look at the source (location) of the open source project and see whether we have it white-listed, gray-listed, or black-listed. The Apache Software Foundation website is white-listed and Stackoverflow is black-listed. Github is gray-listed, meaning “it depends”.

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Please Help Keep our Language Precise: Single-Vendor Open Source is Neo-Proprietary Source, not Closed Source

When the Open Source Initiative defined open source, it focused only on the license, and ignored the process. Smart entrepreneurs quickly discovered that they could provide to the world their product as open source code and benefit from it, while strictly controllling the process to keep competition at bay. This is called single-vendor open source.

Single-vendor open source is not closed source, not even “the new” closed source. The following 2×2 matrix illustrates the distinction between license and process:

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Challenges of Tracking and Documenting Open Source Dependencies in Products: A Case Study (OSS 2020 Paper)

Software vendors need to manage the dependencies of the open source components used in their products. Without this management, license compliance would be impossible, export restrictions could not be maintained, and security vulnerabilities would remain unknown to the vendor. The management of these dependencies has grown in an ad-hoc fashion in most companies. As such, vendors find it hard to learn from each other and improve practices. To address this problem, we performed exploratory single-case study research at one large established software vendor. We gathered and analyzed the key challenges of tracking and documenting open source dependencies in products. We wanted to understand whether these ad-hoc solutions could be based on a single unified conceptual model for managing dependencies. Our study suggests that underlying the various point solutions that we found at this vendor lies a conceptual model that we tentatively call the product (architecture) model. In future cross-vendor work, we will investigate whether this conceptual model can be expanded to become a unifying model for all open source dependency management.

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The Ecosystem of openKONSEQUENZ, a User-Led Open Source Foundation (OSS 2020 Paper)

Companies without expertise in software development can opt to form consortia to develop open source software to meet their needs, as an alternative to the build-or-buy decision. Such user-led foundations are little understood, due to a limited number of published examples. In particular, almost nothing is known about the ecosystems surrounding user-led foundations. Our work seeks to address this gap, through an exploratory qualitative survey of openKONSEQUENZ, from the German energy sector. We find that the technological goals are quite homogeneous, independent of a participant’s role in the ecosystem, but that economic conflicts exist between foundation members and supplier companies due to the consortium’s efforts to transform the software market structure to limit dependency on specific vendors.

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Pattern Discovery and Validation Using Scientific Research Methods (Technical Report)

Abstract: Pattern discovery, the process of discovering previously unrecognized patterns, is usually performed as an ad-hoc process with little resulting certainty in the quality of the proposed patterns. Pattern validation, the process of validating the accuracy of proposed patterns, has rarely gone beyond the simple heuristic of “the rule of three”. This article shows how to use established scientific research methods for the purpose of pattern discovery and validation. The result is an approach to pattern discovery and validation that can provide the same certainty that traditional scientific research methods can provide for the theories they are used to validate. This article describes our approach and explores its usefulness for pattern discovery and evaluation in a series of studies.

Keywords: Patterns, pattern discovery, pattern validation, theory codification, theory building and evaluation, research design

Reference: Riehle, D., Harutyunyan, N., & Barcomb, A. (2020). Pattern Discovery and Validation Using Scientific Research Methods. Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Dept. of Computer Science, Technical Reports, CS-2020-01, February 2020.

The article is available as a PDF file and on FAU’s OPUS server.