SFD around the Commonwealth/Randy Metcalfe
OSS Watch [] promotes awareness and understanding of the legal, social, technical and economic issues that arise when educational institutions engage with free and open source software. It does this by providing unbiased advice and guidance to UK higher and further education. It is a Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC []) funded service which is based within the Research Technologies Service at the University of Oxford, UK.
When we started OSS Watch as a tiny pilot service in 2003, my first-hand experience with open source software was fairly limited. My engagement has been at the user application end: web browser, email client, office productivity suite, and latterly various desktop Linux distributions. My first install was Mandrake 9.2 and since then I've tested various versions of SuSE, RedHat, and Debian, eventually reaching Ubuntu, where I have settled now for more than a year. The state of open source deployment in UK colleges and universities is varied, to say the least. For a small advisory service, it is a tremendous challenge to be able to say anything sensible about the wide range of options available. We try.
Care, Commitment, and Contribution
Despite being based in the UK now, my roots are in Canada. And possibly it is my background in academic philosophy, in particular theories of moral disagreement, that has laid the groundwork for my fascination with the free and open source development communities. I am constantly amazed at how they organize themselves, what they are able to produce, and how they value the things I value myself – commitment, contribution, and care for the community. It is an honour to be associated with such a phenomenon.
Managing the OSS Watch team has brought me a renewed appreciation of what it means to really engage with, to grapple with, issues. Although OSS Watch has a non-advocacy remit, individuals in the team represent a cross-section of the free and open source community itself. That let's us look at each issue – whether it is licensing, software patents, preferred software development environments, etc. - in the round. We learn as a team, and we go on learning every day. It's my reason for getting up in the morning.