At Equinox, we provide problem solving services to libraries. We choose to create and deliver these services within the context of Open Source, both the development methodology and the community building mechanism, because we believe that Open Source allows us to benefit the largest number of organizations. Additionally, it has been shown time and again that active participation in Open Source communities by service providers is a force multiplier for both those providers and the community members at large. Google with its Android Open Source Project and involvement with the Chromium browser, and Canonical with the Ubuntu Linux distribution are prime examples among many that exist beyond the library world. The fact that the Open Source ethos aligns perfectly with the mission of libraries and related institutions only reinforces our belief that we are “doing it right.”
The primary limiting factor to widespread adoption of Open Source software in any segment of the Information Technology industry is project sustainability. The sustainability of development resource allocation for the purpose of defect repair is often of particular concern. This stems from the nature and evolution of many Open Source projects and communities, which tend to attract extremely talented developers for new feature development but find it hard to maintain motivation for ongoing maintenance after local “itches” are scratched. This is a common circumstance that can be well addressed by the existence of a stable, committed service provider. Such a service provider can supply and direct the required resources to make sure that bugs get as much attention as features.
Infrastructure and design are two further areas in which a community-participating service provider can aid the community as a whole. In the communities of which Equinox is part, as with other projects such as Postgresql, MySQL/MariaDB, and Dojo upon which Evergreen, FulfILLment and Koha build, most volunteer effort comes in the form of individuals working at organizations that make use of the software. It is often difficult or impossible for any one individual to understand the complete codebase of a large software project. And without the ability, motivation, and discipline to coordinate on feature design before any code is written, or even before any implementation plan created, there exists a significant risk of missing opportunities for synergy. This, in turn, increases the overall maintenance cost of the software. A service provider that can pull together and dedicate a team specifically to the task of identifying opportunities for infrastructure reuse and improvement can save the project, and the community surrounding it, incalculable time and improve the end result of new feature design and implementation. Take for example the Qt project, which supports and underlays the KDE desktop environment, and has consistently had a dedicated service provider as its primary source of large-scale development effort.
Over the next few months, Equinox will be rolling out several new services. Our goal is to continually build on the successes and growth we, as an Open Source community, have accomplished over the last decade. We at Equinox plan to accomplish this goal by providing creative ways to attack some of the hardest problems our Open Source library community will face over the long term. Everyone at Equinox is very excited about the future. We look forward to any feedback you may have that will help us improve the services we provide to libraries.
We’ll be putting up more information over the next few days detailing not only the services themselves, but the risks they aim to mitigate and how each will accomplish that goal. We will be at ALA Midwinter and would happily talk to you in person, as well. Feel free to stop by booth 541 for more details. If not, and in the mean time, watch this space for more exciting information.