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27 May 2011, 12:16

US DoD reports on lessons learned from open source

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The US Department of Defense has produced a reportPDF on its experiences with using open source software – appropriately released under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 licence. The report follows on from the 2009 memo which opened the door to open source within the US defense department.

Entitled "Open Technology Development (OTD): Lessons Learned & Best Practices for Military Software", the report contains information that is useful beyond the specific requirements of the military. Organisations that wish to use open source software, contribute to open source communities or create their own projects may also find it useful. The report defines the different ways in which software is developed – proprietary, open source, freeware – and goes on to describe how to manage and maintain an open technology project, with details of the tactics, tools and procedures required.

Considerable emphasis is placed on developing a proper community-based approach; pointing out that "communication is the key to success with any project". Stress is placed on the need to be inclusive, to avoid private discussions, be open with code review and nip rudeness in the bud. The report gives clear guidelines on how to manage contributions and how to develop and define the project goals.

For those considering open source for the first time, the report covers analysing the benefits and key points as well as how to assess alternatives. These points could easily be adapted into a checklist for any organisation considering a move to open source. Intellectual rights, data formats, standards and interface are also examined.

The interactions between different open source licences.
Source: DoD report

The report covers copyrights, licences, patents and trademarks; compares the different licences used in open source and the way in which they are often combined; and gives advice on how to pick the right licence. The report states: "Combining software requires that developers and users obey all of the licenses simultaneously. Great care should be taken when picking a license to ensure that a software program can be used and re-used by the widest group of users as possible (if that is the goal of making a software program OSS)."


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