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Unsung, Unpaid Coders Behind Federal IT Dashboard

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  • by hattig (47930) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @09:23AM (#28666917) Journal

    A good example of how free, open source, software benefits everyone.

    The submission reads like it's different, and that other people have garnered the ovations for these people's work, but the work is in enabling technology, frameworks. Much like Sun doesn't get an ovation or money when a successful Java project is deployed, I fail to see how this is different.

    Nice for the coders to get some recognition however.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rockmuelle (575982)

      "Much like Sun doesn't get an ovation or money when a successful Java project is deployed, I fail to see how this is different."

      Sun's engineers were paid for their work on Java. That's the difference.

      Recognition is great and all, but it doesn't put food on the table or pay for the computers used to develop the software.

      -Chris

      • by hattig (47930) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:41AM (#28667225) Journal

        It was their choice to release their code under an open source license.

        I presume that like most good coders, they'll have a decently paying job that is already putting food on the table.

        If they wanted to make money from this work, they could have chosen a different license that was more restrictive. They could be offering support or other services for it.

    • by Old97 (1341297) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:34AM (#28667183)
      Precisely and the Fed CIO and other leaders who were wise enough to support/allow the sensible decisions to use FOSS deserve some kudos if for no other reason than to encourage more of the same. The Federal bureaucracy tends to be risk adverse and in many areas have shied away from open source and free software. Their system integrators (I used to work for one) did as well. All that is changing and that's a good thing. Now that I work for a private sector company I can point to the Fed's use of FOSS as evidence that we can trust it and rely on it. Our executives still want to give sacks of cash to vendors like IBM and Microsoft, but in the current economy they've become more receptive.
      • by sjames (1099)

        I agree with your point, but a better term would be "blame averse", they don't actually care about risk so long as there's a vendor to take the blame when it all goes wrong. Otherwise, FOSS would be the natural choice since it can be audited, and so the risks can be correctly analyzed.

    • !stealing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:54AM (#28667309) Homepage Journal

      Whoever tagged this story as "stealing" doesn't understand Free Software. The Federal CIO deserves extra credit for properly understanding and using it. Which, in turn, promotes it in the most powerful way.

      Remember that the Feds have given away more software and other tech than any other single source. Including the Internet itself, and indeed jumpstarting computers, microprocessors, and even universal telephone service. Your tax dollars at work - in a way that private industry cannot claim. Events that have changed the world into a much freer place, both for software and for everything else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Thank you. The whining from some individuals in this thread about Open Source / Free Software being used in EXACTLY THE FUCKING WAY IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE is one of the most shameful and pitiful things I've seen on Slashdot.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JWSmythe (446288)

        Some people get bent out of shape when they realize that their "free" license is being used by people other than their low paid peers. Oh my gosh, it's a big money rich group using it. They should pay! {sigh} If I give something away (which I do occasionally), it's free to reproduce at will. I do ask that I'm told if/when it's used in something.

        I have a little proof of concept encryption thing online. I look through the Apache logs once in a while to see who's visiting.

    • When people create innovation and make it common and then other people build upon that platform to drive ever higher advancements by also making them commonly available, that's called progress. It's the advantage that free software has over the commercial variety.

    • What example, the summary looked like one big disjointed collection of links. Why not make the whole summary a link and be done with it.
    • Federal contractors got the cash. But sneak a peek [...] behind the Dashboard, and you'll see that some individuals also helped bring it to life with their free software.

      The contractors got paid for their labor. They took these components and put them together. This is exactly what free software is about, making the information technology free (since it's infinitely copyable) and charging people for the labor, which is never free or infinite.

  • This is great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrjb (547783) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @09:24AM (#28666921)
    Less tax payers money being wasted. Also, part of releasing your code under a liberal license is that you permit others to use it free of charge under certain conditions. This happened, and those conditions were fulfilled. Quite a nice win for open source- What more do you want?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ivucica (1001089)

      FLOSS coders at least want recognition. Not everyone, but many do. Who has said "thanks" to them, who has said "this would not be possible without works of so-and-so"? That's what coders want, at the very least. Apple acknowledges FreeBSD's work. Did the US Government?

      • If they require recognition, they can put it in their license.

        • by ivucica (1001089)

          So, you say people have to force you in order for you to acknowledge their free contribution?

          • Re:This is great! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by trg83 (555416) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @11:51AM (#28667687) Homepage
            I'm just now joining the thread. I would say force is too strong a word as it brings to mind lawsuits and court orders. However, for commercial projects that I work on that use open source software (non-GPL), I would certainly not go out of my way to list all the software I was using without being compelled to by a license. The simple reason is that there is creativity in aggregating software just as there is in writing code. If a competitor had in their hands a complete list of technologies used to implement an enterprise product, it would certainly not be equivalent to having access to our source code, but it could certainly provide insight into how some of our sexiest features were composed. On the surface, the competition argument in this case doesn't seem that compelling because it's a governement site, but in reality the government contractors are competing in the marketplace like any other software consulting company. Of course I could start another thread here about how people who use open source should open source their software. I think the reality of that is that most businesses are not open to this. Although none of the applications that I have worked on professionally are open source, I have contributed several patches and bug fixes to help improve the underlying libraries the software depends on. I still sleep fine at night.
            • by autophile (640621)

              I'm just now joining the thread.

              What a coincidence! I'm just now joining the thread, too!

          • "So, you say people have to force you in order for you to acknowledge their free contribution?"

            No, he didn't say so. But what he said is that if you forcibly want something, you'd better put it on write in a binding way or else you'll get it... or not. Not rocket science, anyway.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by nacturation (646836) *

        FLOSS coders at least want recognition. Not everyone, but many do. Who has said "thanks" to them, who has said "this would not be possible without works of so-and-so"? That's what coders want, at the very least. Apple acknowledges FreeBSD's work. Did the US Government?

        Do the license terms require someone to say "thanks" to them beyond the usual copyright notice and attribution statement? No? Then nobody cares that you didn't get the recognition that you didn't ask for, emo kid.

        • Re:This is great! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ivucica (1001089) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @11:21AM (#28667457) Homepage

          Then nobody cares that you didn't get the recognition that you didn't ask for, emo kid.

          First, that was uncalled for.

          Second, ever heard of good manners? Just because license doesn't order to do it, it doesn't mean the user shouldn't be nice by saying Thanks. Just like it might be nice to click on the "Donate" buttons or seek for alternative way to donate to authors; almost nobody would complain if you did, y'know.

          If an expensive US federal project can't even afford to put at least the names of unpaid contributors and honor them in that way... Well, the world is really doomed. I almost always have a "About site" page where I say what tools I used. Because I apparently have some manners.

        • by ivucica (1001089)
          And I guess that in the future I should read what I reply to better.

          So, now that I did, I have an additional question: where are the "usual copyright and attribution statements"? Where are they on the site? I can't see them. Please help this emo kid.
          • So, now that I did, I have an additional question: where are the "usual copyright and attribution statements"? Where are they on the site? I can't see them. Please help this emo kid.

            If the terms of the license aren't being adhered to, then that's legitimate reason to complain. And yes, it is nice to give credit even when it's not required. What's not legitimate is complaining that someone's not pandering to an emotional need for recognition.

            • by ivucica (1001089)

              And yes, it is nice to give credit even when it's not required. What's not legitimate is complaining that someone's not pandering to an emotional need for recognition.

              Then we're actually having the same thoughts, since I was not talking about a need for recognition, I was just trying to say that people feel good and better when recognized.

              Don't you feel that way when recognized and credited for your contributions?

              • Then we're actually having the same thoughts, since I was not talking about a need for recognition, I was just trying to say that people feel good and better when recognized.

                In my more argumentative days of years past I would have launched into a post about the fundamental lack of difference, psychologically, between wants and needs. However, I'd just end up boring myself to death so let's agree that it's good to recognize others for their hard work.

    • by Cillian (1003268)
      You assume by the first part that everybody on earth who codes Free software is from the USA... Not everybody might think it an advantage that the USA saves money from their work. (Although, I agree that by releasing it as Free software they forfeit their right to give a damn)
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why does everyone assume that because you are using open source software you automatically save money? I have seen MANY instances where buying a $1000 piece of commerical software over a OSS solution saved us the cost of the package over extra development time to integrate the OSS software. Every situation is different and we should never assume OSS is always the best choice. A good developer will always weigh their choices and make the best decsion for that particular case.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JWSmythe (446288)

      Budgets are a wonderful thing. If you've ever known anyone who works with the government, you'll have heard of it in action. Say a department is budgeted $1,000,000 USD (a low number by gov't standards). Now say that they've spent $750,000 USD by the end of the month, quarter, or fiscal year depending on the period of that budget. They have two choices. Either they can say "Oh, our job only really requires $750,000", and that's what will be budgeted for the next period, or they can spend t

  • So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by quetwo (1203948) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @09:35AM (#28666971) Homepage

    Really? You are concerned about that? Go browse the web for 10 minutes, and show me which websites DON'T use pre-packaged AJAX/JavaScript libraries. EXT, YUI, etc., are all over the place, and used every day. The fact these contractors used these OSS libraries shouldn't concern anybody -- really. Nothing to see here, go on with your Microsoft basing.

  • pardon my ignorance, but this is newsworthy- why? last i checked FOSS in some form or another exists just about everywhere. CC and GNU is used daily by individuals, companies and governments worldwide. or am i missing something here? is the author suggesting is a problem because they are _unpaid?_ thats the inherent problem with FOSS because just like crime, volunteering doesn't pay.

  • In other news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MoeDrippins (769977) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @09:56AM (#28667055)

    ... people developing applications often use libraries that have already been written.

  • What do you want!? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Speaking as someone who deals with this almost daily, just trying to get the Fed to use OSS is like pulling teeth. When they do, you certainly don't shout if from the rooftops, or someone will surely swoop down and make you remove it. Additionally, it is Open Source. Sorry that they didn't stroke your ego's and make you feel good about yourselves. Perhaps folks should reconsider the real purpose of open source; is it benefit for the community, or is it an outlet for you to earn praise?

  • by sjs132 (631745) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:11AM (#28667101) Homepage Journal

    I looked for an F'n article to read, but couldn't find one. It looks more like one person putting together an opinion to post on Slashdot, not '"News" for nerds' in any sense.

    Best I could tell from this headline: "Unsung, Unpaid Coders Behind Federal IT Dashboard", is that someone is pissed they didn't get part of the bailouts or federal stimulus. Guess what, whats how socialism works, they should get used to it, we'll see much more. It only really works on paper, eventually you have no motivation to work/create if you end up being "Unsung, Unpaid" and it will eventually collapse.

    If someone truly want to contribute to "society" with their code, license it on a per-case basis. Someone you like, license for a few dollars to feed your belly lunch. Someone you don't really like (Microsoft assumed usually in this case), then increase the license fee to where both parties are comfortable with the trade.

    (The trade = use of your code for cash. All of society is based on labor trades. Trade for food, clothing, shelter or something that can be later traded for those things, such as gold, guns, political power, etc. Society eventually breaks down when those that produce no labored product expect to be compensated on the same scale as those that do produce a labored product.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Gee, another right-wing wanker who doesn't know what socialism is, making up their own definition. And on Slashdot none-the-less!

    • by Oswald (235719)

      I looked for an F'n article to read, but couldn't find one. It looks more like one person putting together an opinion to post on Slashdot....

      Exactly. Just some clown with an AOL email (are they suddenly retro chic?) trolling. How it got to the front page I cannot imagine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      eventually you have no motivation to work/create if you end up being "Unsung, Unpaid"

      But this code has already been created. None of the authors had any financial incentive to release it for free, but they have done! Trying to claim that they wouldn't flies against the fact that many projects are and have been created for no other purpose than because their authors wanted to, thought it would be fun, wanted a hobby, or so on. Money is not the only reward.

    • by grcumb (781340)

      Best I could tell from this headline: "Unsung, Unpaid Coders Behind Federal IT Dashboard", is that someone is pissed they didn't get part of the bailouts or federal stimulus. Guess what, whats how socialism works, they should get used to it, we'll see much more. It only really works on paper, eventually you have no motivation to work/create if you end up being "Unsung, Unpaid" and it will eventually collapse.

      Wrong on 2 counts:

      1. The fact that the coder was not paid for this particular use of the software does
  • Three OSS projects were used to build an application for the Gov that everyone can use and evaluate. The White House is using OSS. That is a step forward. The creators of the packages can put this on there resumes. Business see this and OSS becomes more acceptable. I read this and find three packages used in a working app that can be evaluated on-line. I will definitely look into how I can use these packages.

  • Looks like the evidence wasn't up for long. http://it.usaspending.gov/customcode/ [usaspending.gov] now reports: You don't have permission to access /customcode/ on this server.
  • Even if the software is free, it would be reassuring to see the government encourage further development by offering the coders behind these libraries some sort of honorarium - a public recognition that their work is being used for big things. Even if it's the slap-in-the-face One Dollar honorarium, public acknowledgement is big.
    • by jea6 (117959)

      Except this wasn't developed by "The Government." It was developed by a federal contractor, namely "GSA awarded REI Systems a 5-year, $10 million contract in March 2008 to work on USASpending.gov and other OMB systems."

    • by glitch23 (557124)

      Even if the software is free, it would be reassuring to see the government encourage further development by offering the coders behind these libraries some sort of honorarium - a public recognition that their work is being used for big things. Even if it's the slap-in-the-face One Dollar honorarium, public acknowledgement is big.

      Open source is used in many places throughout the government. This is just one website for one department of the government. It is good that OSS works for them in this case but why publicly recognize the coders or the contractors who put all the components together to make the website what it is? This was a job just like any other contract job. Why recognize the contractors in this case but no others throughout the other departments of the government that hire contractors who end up using OSS in their desig

      • Ok, perhaps I was over-specific, or the article was. I believe people should be given credit for their work. Monetarily or otherwise. I don't mean just in this case. I'm aware that tracking and crediting is a massive job, and I don't blame anyone for failing to embark on it, nor for not making themselves the examples by being the first to do so, but still. I just think it's a good idea.
  • The site is running Apache [apache.org] on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 [redhat.com], and it looks like Drupal [drupal.org] running on PHP [php.net]. What more do you want?

  • These contractors don't get paid 18 million dollars for a web site for nothing. It's called sales and marketing. It is something free coders never have, and it can get very dirty. But it is highly rewarding, as can be seen by all these contractors being awarded absurd amounts of money for code they didn't write, and shit that's worthless. That is why the government shouldn't decide what the people want. They should never be allowed to go shopping, because they do not have a budget, in the normal sense.

    Case

    • by grcumb (781340)

      It's called sales and marketing. It is something free coders never have, and it can get very dirty. But it is highly rewarding....

      I find developing Free software very rewarding, too, but I think we have different definitions for the word. In my definition, I get to keep my soul.

      I get paid good money to do work with FOSS, too, but the 'keep your soul' part really sealed the deal for me.

  • by Weedhopper (168515) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @03:07PM (#28668931)

    Because this entire submission is just absolute drivel from FOSS cheerleaders who simply don't understand the fucking point of FOSS.

    This is EXACTLY how FOSS is supposed to be used.

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