A New Way For Open Source and Open Standards To Collaborate
I recently pointed out in a TechCrunch contribution that the open source and open standards communities need to find ways to team up if they are to continue driving innovation and development of transformative technologies to push our society forward.
The challenge I posed to organizations like ours, OASIS Open, and others in the open source and standards ecosystems was to find ways to collaborate and encourage our stakeholders to do the same. My opportunity to “walk the talk” arrived immediately.
A Case in Point
The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), with whom OASIS Open has had a long and productive relationship, came to us and described a need. EEA has years of experience as a forum for building standards for enterprise-ready, interoperable blockchain implementations. However, to promote broader community participation in the Ethereum ecosystem, EEA also wanted to offer the wider Ethereum community the ability to start open source projects and to do so in a proven setting that provides solid support for governance, standards, reference implementations and a path to cooperation with international high-level standardization as well.
And that’s the expertise of OASIS Open. So we joined forces and announced EEA Community Projects. The work is led by EEA, managed under the OASIS Open Projects process, and driven by the community at large. We’re describing this partnership as a “Managed Open Project,” and we think this approach may be useful for other modern, agile development projects hosted with consortiums as well.
Traditional OASIS Open Projects provide the pathway for open source projects to attract broad buy-in and become recognized international open standards as well. Of course, any developer can always build their own Git repo and open it to pull requests. But a stable, trustable project often requires more than that. Stakeholders want to know that their contributions or feature requests will be noted. Contributors want to know that their joint work will be run fairly. Commercial, open source, and government users (and international standards bodies) want to know that a project is properly licensed, vendor-neutral, and will remain available.
The critical components needed for those goals are a tested process, expert facilitators with a light touch, and well-documented provenance. These elements are required by global treaties and many national practices to assure standards quality; they also happen to create the best, fairest open technologies. That’s precisely what OASIS Open offers with its well-known, verified, and accredited development governance process. And that’s why works produced here are widely accepted as open and reliable by so many industries and governments.
Our technical committees have co-developed their standards with open source reference implementations and proofs of concept for over 20 years. By creating our Open Projects program we encouraged future projects to operate on a “FOSS-first” basis, adding open source license defaults to our other routine process protections.
Open Projects have also been the preferred approach elected for most of our newest projects. But until recently, those were solely OASIS operations. So, what’s the difference between those and a ‘Managed Open Project?’
The Value-Add of Managed Open Projects
The primary difference is in branding, but it’s also more than that. OASIS has long enjoyed the reputation as our industry’s leader in sharing our work. We’ve been co-approving outputs with international standards bodies like ISO, ITU, IEC, and others since 2004; our strategy has always been radical transparency, the opposite of “not invented here.”
So, let’s say, you participate in or support a software technology ecosystem. You might have member-focused and proprietary work, or community-based and open source efforts, or both. Either way, you rely on your active collaborators. If those contributors recognize the value of being well governed and having the opportunity for broader approval and certification, they will look for some of the qualities described above: support for open source code implementations, stability of releases and versions, open public process, eligibility for certifications, and assurances that support broad global acceptance. It takes a lot to build that, and most projects don’t readily have access to the skill sets in-house to shepherd a project to that kind of success. So you are faced with a build versus buy decision.
Some huge foundations, or one-off smaller projects, may opt to build their own capabilities and seek certifications—or just decide to do without them. But for everyone else in the non-profit sector, outsourcing the process and development platforms may make a lot of sense. EEA essentially decided, after due diligence and some negotiated ground rules, to outsource their need for an open source and open standards development platform to us. They absolutely could have built their own native capacity for Ethereum enterprise-facing open source work. But the immediate up-front costs of time and personnel, and the longer-lead-time issues of seeking independent accreditation, made it worth it for EEA to combine forces with OASIS Open.
The deliverables created in that joint program will still be EEA works, branded from the EEA community and whoever else may choose to contribute to their open source projects, but administered by our team and supported by our processes and infrastructure.
Through OASIS Open’s Managed Open Projects program, other existing and new development organizations or consortiums can also add these self-branded capabilities to their existing hosted activities. They also will be eligible, at their option, to submit for international standards approval, without having to build from scratch all those resources, relationships and critical processes.
This Managed Open Project approach is readily adaptable to any open source code, API, transaction or data structure in all industries. This includes blockchain, such as with EEA, but also can comprise a larger, open-source-powered tent for collaboration in real estate, petroleum, healthcare or any other industry with shared data and open standards needs.
A Dream Come True
The reason that I came to OASIS Open is because I saw in this organization an ability and a desire to share and collaborate with other organizations, and the OASIS Open team is passionate about doing what’s best for the community. Now, after almost two years here, I’m more convinced than ever that we’ve got the expertise and contributor base of experts to make it happen; we’re nimble enough to be effective change catalysts; and, most importantly, we are doing the work. I couldn’t be more excited about this new Managed Open Project approach and how it is fulfilling the vision of harmonizing open source and open standards communities.
Our Managed Open Projects program specifically, and most cooperation and sharing of work across organizational boundaries generally, allow development projects to leverage broad community input while embracing contributions, feature requests, and bug fixes from a much larger potential group of stakeholders. Doing so in a transparent and open fashion and, increasingly, with widely-understood open source tools has been a great benefit to our own projects.
OASIS Open encourages all projects—of any size and housed anywhere—to look for cooperation and sharing opportunities across industries, consortia and open source foundations. It is a strategy that has served us very well since our own launch at the dawn of the internet in 1993.
If you share this vision and have a project or consortium that wants a reliable path to open source development, broader cooperation, or de jure standards, I hope you will reach out to us. Together we can make it happen.