Stephen Abram goads me enough to blog!!

So much for resolutions.  Think I said, I'd try to post once a week, well not even one since February!  I wonder if there are resolution police around anywhere??  Since I resolved to blog more at the beginning of this year, Twitter has absolutely exploded. I'm not there, not going there, don't want to talk about it.  I prefer to read blog posts.  Good and bad about Twitter is all over the 'net, you don't need to hear it from me, and I digress...

Stephen Abram's Open Source Position Paper has driven me to a response.   I first learned about the document on the Evergreen general mailing list.  It was in a discussion that started about a Library Journal article about the paper.  I posted my knee jerk reaction on the mailing list.  Folks have encouraged me to put it up on the web, so it is below, in its entirety.  To get the full picture you really need to read his paper -  here -  the post is entitled "It is about respectful Discussion".  Be sure to read all of the comments on Stephen's post, lots of thoughtful folks talking to him.

If you're following this at all, you also want to see this totally non-library response from ITwire. 

My headings follow the headings in Abram's paper:

TCO:  We handled our own migration to EG, a possibility that Abram doesn't address. Our hardware costs were under $10,000CAD.  We migrated early in the last year of our support contract with our proprietary system - essentially having access to both systems for about 7 months.  We could never have afforded to do that if we'd been migrating to a new proprietary system.  Has it cost us in time?  Of course it has, but I once spent the better part of a year on a DRA to Dynix migration (not to mention the year before that dealing with the whole RFP & decision making process) AND we spent approx. CAD$180,000.00 on hardware, software and training - that was many years ago and in a pretty small library system - I'd hate to think what a migration to an SD system would cost today. But of course I wouldn't know would I?  Those companies ask us to sign confidentiality documents around quotes.  We do have a develpment contract for some work from Equinox and no one has asked us to sign any confidientiality documents around the work or the quote.  The time investment in learning about Dynix hasn't helped me much with other systems - none of their standards or software are the same as anything else I've encountered. The time invested in learning about and implementing EG has given me sustainable, transferable knowlege that will help me and the institution I work for well into the future.   Oh and yes indeedy it is free like in kittens not beer but kittens last a lot longer than beer, much as I enjoy a good beer, kittens are a way better ROI, don't ya think?  Last on this point -  let's not forget about paying for own data when we migrate from one system to another - we won't have to do that if we ever migrate from EG.

Opportunity Costs:  "Some software isn't compatible with open source".  Is he kidding?  Like any proprietary system is compatable with all software!!!  We had to pay for extra programming to make sure our former mythical beast of an ILS was searchable in the federated search product that we chose.

SaaS - FUD, total FUD mongering.  I have no comment.

Features and Functions:  I'll admit that the EG cataloguing module isn't the most user friendly thing I've ever used but since 90% of our cataloguing is done by a vendor, it's not a great issue for us. We migrated from a pretty old SD OPAC so for us the EG OPAC is more feature rich but I get that there more bells and whistles in other SD products than the one we used.
As for SD being the most robust and feature rich system on the market??? Why did Georgia decide to build their own ILS?  Why is Queens PL suing SD over what are essentially broken promises???

Customization: "Probably the most attractive claim by the open source community is its ability to be customized by anyone, for anyone. This claim is technically true."  I almost want to say 'nuff said.  But I can't help remembering being sold on being able to do minor customizations to Horizon, only to find that stuff we did would be undone by minor upgrades.  At least in EG we can track our own tweaks and just re-do them after an upgrade if need be and instead of getting surprises, we'll know what tweaks won't go with an upgrade, because not only did we make the tweaks but we can also see the code.

Security: I think this is just more FUD.  Others more qualified than me should address this if possible.  update based on itwire post:  the US DoD is embracing open source - think they'd do it if was generally not secure???

Networking:  Doesn't relying on more open standards stand us in better stead?  Keeping up with changes to browsers and operating systems is difficult for all of us, proprietary or open source.

Necessary Expertise:  I am aware of the budget cuts to libraries over the decades that caused us to lose systems and other positions over the years. So I lay no blame for giving up a lot of power over our own destinies.  But this loss has caused us to rely much too heavily on proprietary vendors methinks. I think that building the "necessary expertise" is crucial to the future of libraries. We are the organizing experts, as more and more digital repositories are created, more open publishing at our institutions happens, we need to be the ones who help with organizing and access to this stuff.  In many ways I agree with Clifford Lynch when he wonders about the cost and time and effort being spent to create something that essentially already exists.  But this is a case of going back to school, learning about our principles and standards either again or for the very first time - taking back ownership of our own systems is a very good thing.  If it feels like a step backwards to some, so be it, eventually it will lead to huge steps forward.

Testing:  I've said this once and I'll say it again, is he kidding??  Those big proprietary systems are impossible to test thoroughly,  there is no one who is familiar with the entire history of their development. I remember a Horizon support guy telling me they'd never be able to release a new feature if they had to be completely & totally sure that it wouldn't break anything.  We're all familiar with waiting for others to apply patches and do upgrades first to avoid that early adopter disaster.  This is actually the way of a lot of software isn't it? Early adopters do take their chances. At least right now, the EG and KOHA developers are all intimately familiar with their systems and if they don't catch "breaks" that will be caused by an upgrade before they happen, they'll often be able to get to the source and fix it with a really good patch, not a quick fix that causes other problems, etc. etc. etc.

Integration:  Mostly agree with what he says here, but would add that with Open Source you're more likely to be able to understand compatability issues 'cause you can see the code!!

Community Driven:  I suppose I can concede that there is a big, mostly thriving Sirsi Dynix community but has anyone ever rec'd a reply to a query or problem almost instantly from SD developers???

Scalability:  I think he goes into territory he doesn't know much about here. Remember that Georgia didn't have enough confidence in any of the proprieatry systems in that department. Yes EG was developed for a specific consortium but Conifer and BC Sitka and others exist so the specifics for Georgia haven't made it impossible for other consortiums to use EG.

Speed:  This is such a red herring.  So many things can cause speed issues it is almost impossible to decide that one system is faster than another.  Our EG system is totally zippy - but I know better than to say that is way faster than the mythical beast that we left because we were part of a consortium using a pretty old version of the OPAC - apples to oranges.

Reliability:  I truly don't know how he has the nerve to discuss reliability.  Think of what SD did to their Horizon customers. I still struggle to contain my outrage about that and my library wasn't directly affected!!  That DRA to Dynix migration I participated in?  Forced, by the end of the life of DRA.  No software is totally reliable ... at least if the EG community dies or forks irrevocably, we have our data and our system and can keep it running just fine while we decide what to do next. 

Open Source and Libraries:  More FUD.  Lynch has already clarified what he was saying.  Libraries need to explore open source and proprietary solutions and based on their needs, I don't think it is a matter of open source all the time but I gotta admit, we look for those first.

SD on Open Source:  Who cares?? - just like I wouldn't listen to the tobacco industry about smoking I'm not going to take advice on open source from a company who stands to gain by turning libraries away from open source solutions.

Caveat emptor indeed!  I totally agree with him on that one and it is why I would not go near SD with a ten foot pole, given a choice.

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