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Building a better developer community: OR 2016

For 4 days in June the long standing Open Repositories Conference was held in Dublin, Ireland at Trinity College. The 11th incarnation was subtitled, “Illuminating the World” and provided an opportunity to explore the ways in which repositories, infrastructures and processes catalyze interdisciplinary collaboration, increase the visibility of research results and digital collections, facilitate better data analysis and raised questions about how all this can be improved through better community engagement and management. This is where Sound and Vision came in.

Transnational open source development

Sound and Vision R&D team member and EuropeanaTech Community Manager, Gregory Markus attended OR2016 as part of a panel focused on transnational open source development and improving collaborative technical development in amongst heritage institutions in Europe. EuropeanaTech and Sound and Vision have been committed to raising the visibility and necessity for sustainable FLOSS (Free, Libre, Open Source Software) development in Europe for several years now most notably with FLOSS Inventory and “Who’s Using What” developer spotlight.

Markus served on a panel with Chris Arwe via Richard Green from Hull University on behalf of the Hydra Project, Anders Sparre Conrad from the Royal Library of Denmark and David Wilcox, Product Manager for Fedora. Fedora and Hydra are two of largest and most widely used repository systems in the US with a growing community Europe, most notably, the Royal Library of Denmark. Hydra’s and Fedora’s success and growth is fully indebted to the strong community of developers both have amassed. However, uptake and contribution is almost exclusively U.S. based.

How to create a flourishing community

This is a trend the panelists have noticed over their decades of shared experience and was one of the reasons the group was formed. Why do develop communities and OS projects seem to flourish better in the US as compared to the EU, how can this be analyzed and how can the EU grow such a vehement and collaborative OS developer community as is witnessed amongst US academic and heritage institutions?

As part of the panel, all four presenting parties discussed the following topics that they felt affect growing an OS developer community:

  • Getting institutional commitment to making contributions
  • Agreeing the rules for making contributions
  • Agreeing a technology stack and the skills required to engage with this
  • A preference to focus on a local solution
  • Institutions not feeding back local enhancements to the software
  • An unwillingness to join an existing initiative

For more information you can see the slides from all the panelists:

What's next?

Over the coming months EuropeanaTech will continue its research efforts to better understand how institutions can collaborate better to improve OS development by looking closely at Hydra and Fedora as two premiere communities. Furthermore, Sound and Vision have already entered into another up-and-coming community, IIIF that will ideally open up room for more collaborative development rather than operating in silos.