The promise and peril of open source

I think we've moved beyond arguments over "open source versus commercial software." Open source adherents used to be seen by some people as digital hippies or anti-corporate anarchists. Which in some cases might even be true, but! We now see convincing evidence that open source software can be as good as or better than proprietary products. And since successful open source projects are the focus of a large and committed community, they are likely to be more sustainable too.

Note that I said "successful open source projects" in the above sentence. In this category I would nominate Linux, ffmpeg, and Drupal. But there are many more open source projects that have not been embraced by a large enough community to reach critical mass. And critical mass, defined here as "reaching a large global community of enthusiastic users," is the thing that drives sustainability.

The sustainability factor is critically important to audiovisual archivists, because the formats, standards, systems, and tools that archives depend on have to remain usable for a very long time. One cannot have a media database that goes out of business and can't be exported to another system. Many of us have painful experience with "enterprise-level" media systems that a) depend on support from a vendor and b) are essentially a data silo that won't talk to other systems. That is a recipe for a very painful dead end at some point.

So what to do? My suspicion is we have a lot of distributed knowledge in the moving image archival community about open source tools that could potentially reach "critical mass." But we're all extremely busy, so we go about our individual work using our favorite tools and open source projects without anyone else noticing.

This site is about calling attention to those tools and projects. Over the next few months, we'll enlist certain people within the AMIA community to write about their work and share their documentation. We invite anyone reading this to do the same. The only way to build that critical mass is to get busy building it.



Have you checked out http://plumi.org ?

It's based on the enterprise level Plone.org, it might be able to serve some of your needs.