This January, Brandeis University will launch the first phase of a three-course online professional specialization in Open Source Technology Management. The January course, The Business of Open Source, will cover the successful deployment of an engagement with open source production.
OpenSource.com’s Don Watkins recently sat down with a cohort of practitioners behind the specialization, including Patrick Masson, general manager and board director of the Open Source Initiative; Carol Damm, director of programs and assessments at Brandeis University; Ken Udas, program chair of the Open Source Technology Management specialization; and James Vasile, Brandeis faculty.
An excerpt of that conversation is below. You can read the full article here.
Don Watkins: How will the course prepare students to successfully deploy open source software and effectively engage in open source production?
Patrick Masson, OSI general manager and board director: The OSI receives many questions from all sorts of organizations—companies, governments, non-profits—and individuals who are just beginning to explore open source software. Many of these inquiries share a few common themes around acquisition, implementation, support, and development, such as: How do we “buy” open source software, and where do we send the RFP? Do we need to hire a programmer if we use open source software? Will the open source project provide end-user or technical support?
The OSI hopes the courses can prepare students by introducing the business case for open source, including business models, the value proposition, organizational practices, and operational and community processes. There are actually three courses: The Business of Open Source, Open Source Community Development, and Open Source Development Fundamentals.
DW: How will students be challenged to assess traditional organizational practices and measure their capacity to manage reform in light of the differences presented by open source? Can you teach open source? How do you assess community building? Can it be assessed?
James Vasile, Open Source Technology Management faculty: I don’t want to frame these classes as presenting an approach in opposition to traditional development models. Free and open source software (FOSS) is its own way of fostering technical collaboration. To think of it as “reform” or to define it in terms of other models is to miss the point. Open source strategies are useful, and they often appear right alongside other approaches.
Open source is a range of practices, a set of licenses, a diverse community, a strategic approach, and even an ethos. There’s no one thing to teach. Rather, it’s a whole field. Engaging that field can be useful if you know what you’re doing. Right now, the primary way people learn the field is by spending a decade contributing to open source efforts. We are distilling the lessons learned by many experienced practitioners and trying to help people climb the learning curve quicker.
Metrics are, of course, a huge topic in the FOSS world right now. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to measure or assess community health and growth. What we do have is a set of context-specific indicators that can fit narratives. These indicators tell you where to dig. You don’t know whether you’ve struck truth or not until you get below the surface.