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How Open Source Could Benefit Academic Research 84

dp619 writes "Ross Gardler, of Apache Fame, has written a guest post on the Outercurve Foundation blog advocating that universities accelerate the research process through a collaborative sharing and development of research software while examining reasons why many have been reluctant to publish their source code. Quoting: 'These highly specialized software solutions are not rarely engineered for reuse. They are often hacks to answer a specific question quickly. ... What many academic researchers fail to understand is that this specialization problem is not unique to research projects. Most software developers will seek to provide an adequate solution to their specific problem, as quickly as possible. They don't seek to build a perfect, all-purpose, tool set that can be reused in every conceivable circumstance. They simply solve the problem at hand and move on to the next one. The difference is that open source developers will do this incremental problem solving using shared code. They will share that code in incremental steps rather than wait until they've built the complete system they need but is too specific for others to use. Other people will reuse and improve on the initial solution, perhaps generalizing it a little in the process. There is no need to share the details of why one needs a 'green widget' nor is there any reason to prevent someone modifying it so it can be either a 'green widget' or a 'blue widget.'"
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How Open Source Could Benefit Academic Research

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  • I basically wake up to an inbox full of bug reports and feature requests every morning, and I have to find time to deal with these in addition to all of the actual science I'm supposed to be working on. Despite being an obvious sign of success (people actually use our software!), it's become so discouraging that it helped drive out one of my (very competent) ex-coworkers.

    You're doing it wrong then. Just because you release source doesn't mean you have to maintain it. If you don't maintain it, and it's important enough, then some one else will. Typically I find that people who are in your position cling too tightly to the reins. If you love it, set it free. Check up on it from time to time, hell, even if it's forked and you want to add a feature you need to the code you have two options: a) modify the onsite version you keep and push out the source; Letting the forkers figure out how to merge that feature if they like, or b) adopt the latest version of the forked code and make your changes there.

    For fuck's sake people, you make it sound like simple resource management is a form of rocket science.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor