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Government GNU is Not Unix Software News

Unsung, Unpaid Coders Behind Federal IT Dashboard 99

theodp writes "The Federal CIO got a standing ovation for the new Federal IT Dashboard. Federal contractors got the cash. But sneak a peek at the 'customcode' directory behind the Dashboard, and you'll see that some individuals also helped bring it to life with their free software. For starters, there's Timothy Groves' Auto Suggest (Creative Commons License), Alf Magne Kalleland's Ajax Tooltip and Dynamic List (GNU Lesser General Public License), and Gregory Wild-Smith's Simple AJAX Code-Kit (SACK) (modified X11 License)."
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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.

  • 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?
  • 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.

  • 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 on Sunday July 12, 2009 @09:57AM (#28667059)

    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 rockmuelle ( 575982 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:28AM (#28667155)

    "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.


  • Re:Not impressed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeURL ( 890801 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:33AM (#28667173) Journal
    Dashboards can be very helpful if you intimately understand the business in question. Giving execs and top level management access to dashboards can truly enhance efficiency and problem recognition.

    However, making those very same dashboards public-facing is an exercise in futility. A dashboard, by its nature, leverages knowledge that people are expected to already have.
  • by oberondarksoul ( 723118 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:33AM (#28667177) Homepage

    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 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.
  • Re:This is great! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ivucica ( 1001089 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @10:34AM (#28667185) Homepage

    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?

  • 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.

  • !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:!stealing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 12, 2009 @11:19AM (#28667447)
    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: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.

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

    by trg83 ( 555416 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @11:51AM (#28667687)
    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.
  • Re:Not impressed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Sunday July 12, 2009 @12:27PM (#28667919) Homepage Journal

    However, making those very same dashboards public-facing is an exercise in futility. A dashboard, by its nature, leverages knowledge that people are expected to already have.

    Fail. Just like your car's dash [] tells you things you could figure out from other factors if only you had time, so does a dashboard of financial information. Sure, I could find out how fast I was going by watching my clock and the mile markers, but I need to know sooner than that. A site like this one does the same thing. It's easy to sit back and say "That's useless" when you're contributing nothing, or don't care about the subject matter... Also, just like giving a "dashboard" to an exec, this makes the information readily available to people who aren't accountants.

  • by SausageOfDoom ( 930370 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @01:08PM (#28668211)


    Besides, it's not like the contractors downloaded "Bob's IT Dashboard" and changed the logo - by the sounds of things, they just used open source libraries to reduce the development time.

    Better than the BBC, for example, who insist on rolling their own libraries for everything, while on the taxpayer's time.

  • Re:This is great! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 12, 2009 @02:48PM (#28668779)

    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.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 12, 2009 @03:25PM (#28669071)

    "It is stupid to work unpaid and let others profit from it. Plain and simple."

    Don't do it, then.

    On the other hand, Slashdot's owners do profit from you posting here for free, so go figure what does mean for you.

  • Re:!stealing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <jwsmythe@jwsmy[ ].com ['the' in gap]> on Monday July 13, 2009 @01:16AM (#28672779) Homepage Journal

        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. Quite a few research labs and somewhat secret gov't organizations have viewed it and downloaded the package. I'd like to know that it's being used in something practical, but I know they can't tell me. My best hope is that someday I'll have something interesting enough out there where they'll not only want to use my little bits of code that I make available, but be hired on to work with them. A little "hmmm, this guy seems to know a little something" would hopefully go a long way. :)

        Am I going to cry if I find out that it's being used in the latest-greatest government initiative, or even as the new secure messing platform that Microsoft puts out with Windows 13? Nope. But if they do snag it and use it, I'll be more than happy to brag that up. Since mine is so simple, I seriously doubt anything beyond someone seeing it, thinking "that's a good idea", and writing their own code for it. But hey, if my functions show up in something big eventually, I'll be impressed. :)

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