I’ve been thinking a lot about code recently – which is strange for a person who cannot write code for toffee. A lot of this stems from my role as Consortium Manager for the Shibboleth Consortium and various discussions we have been having about the most appropriate way to ensure that Shib code is the best it can be. One of the obvious things we are just embarking on is getting a technical writer in to improve documentation, something of a relief for all the developers involved!
As usual when I start thinking about a topic, I seem to see it everywhere. I was amused to see a recent xkcd:
Whilst browsing Twitter at the weekend I noticed this tweet from @TAC_NISO:
Ouch, throw down! Dunbar “Don’t see any services coming out of proprietary vendor that are more innovative than Open Source” #alamw11 #rmg21
I think that all developers who want their code to be reused have problems with making it ‘good’ – whatever that definition of good might be. Perhaps the only real difference between open-source and commercial code is that open-source is more likely to be installed, adapted and changed by a wider audience that commercial code, which is often shipped in less configurable packages? It is where people want to deviate from the norm that the ‘goodness’ often matters. Good code also needs the support of good documentation – hence the progress on the shib side with a real proper technical writer!
Luckily, I can mostly rely on other people to worry about the ‘goodness’ of the code, but I am interested very much in the whole ethos of managing an open source project – particularly the politics and issues that often arise. One of the Shibboleth developers – Chad La Joie – recently sent me a link to this book on these very issues and so far I am finding it helpful and insightful.