Topic: What is open source

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What is open source software, a quick introduction

Open Source Software for the Uninitiated

What is open source software

A program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge, ie, open. Open source code is typically created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community.

Free vs. Open Source software

Microsoft Internet Explorer is free, you can download it from Microsoft's website but if you don't like the way it works there is not much you can do about it.

In comparison Firefox is a free web browser, you can download it from but also if you want to you can download the source code, you can then make changes and offer you improvements back to the community

Some open source software you may know

Linux, Koha, Ubuntu, Mozilla Firefox, Open office

Some Other open source software

Apache has been the most popular web server on the Internet since April 1996. Plone and many other content management systems. Chances are any email you receive has been through at least one open source based server.

Open source software used in Kete

Ruby on Rails

Databases – MySQL, PostgresSQL

Why use OSS

There are many reasons for choosing open source software, they range from philosophical and ethical to practical and financial reasons.

Source Code is available

As mentioned by Walter having access to the source code makes it possible to fix any issues yourself. It also allows you or someone hired by you to make changes to the software. You can hire a developer from anywhere, or make changes yourself. You are not tied to any one company for services.


Many eyes pick up mistakes, the source code in open source projects is totally open to peer review of all code. This prevents or helps to quickly find errors which can lead security problems with software.


Another less obvious advantage is that by choosing to use open source software you become part of a community who can help each other with problems, strategies, share stories about the experiences with the software.

Successful opens source software boils down to people writing software that they need to do what they want it to do.

Governance of OSS projects

Voulnteer Work

A common misconception about OSS software is that the most successful open source projects are built for free by voulnteers.


The indispensable ingredient that binds developers together on a free software project, and makes them willing to compromise when necessary, is the code's forkability: the ability of anyone to take a copy of the source code and use it to start a competing project, known as a fork.

Benevolent Dictators

The benevolent dictator model is exactly what it sounds like: final decision-making authority rests with one person, who, by virtue of personality and experience, is expected to use it wisely.

Linux is an example of a huge open source project run in this way. Linus Torvalds the developer of the original version of Linux has the final say on all the direction of the project.

This is the current situation for the Kete project.

One problem with this model is that as new clients come to Katipo to get work done on Kete the direction of the project will be to some extent determined by the company who currently holds the purse strings.

Governance Groups - Consensus-based Democracy

So if the Benevolent Dictator model is not going to be used then the project needs some kind of group to manage the direction of the software.

Why we want/need governance

To manage pooling resources.

Allowing for more democratic representation,

So as not to burden an individual or organisation with sole responsibility for managing the project when multiple organisations or users benefit from the management.

So that one organisation or individual does not get disproportional say based on their financial position.

Somebody need to make decisions about technical decisions which will impact on all of the community to guard against bad decisions.

Independent body to hold the copyright.

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