A Contrast in Open Source Approaches

Two stories collided with my RSS reader this morning, each showing very different approaches to open source software and open standards. I thought the Oh wow!/Oh crap! contrast was enough to warrant a blog post.

First I ran across a story on Slashdot that was also discussed on the excellent Between the Poles blog. From Slashdot:

The City of Vancouver is poised to pass a motion that will require it to share its data, adopt open standards, open source applications it develops in house and put open source software on an equal foot as proprietary software during procurement.

Sometimes you see things like this and when you read the actual source material you find things were a bit overhyped. Not so in this case. Check out this excerpt directly from the motion:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Vancouver endorses the principles of:


  • Open and Accessible Data - the City of Vancouver will freely share with citizens, businesses and other jurisdictions the greatest amount of data possible while respecting privacy and security concerns;

  • Open Standards - the City of Vancouver will move as quickly as possible to adopt prevailing open standards for data, documents, maps, and other formats of media;

  • Open Source Software - the City of Vancouver, when replacing existing software or considering new applications, will place open source software on an equal footing with commercial systems during procurement cycles; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT in pursuit of open data the City of Vancouver will:


  • Identify immediate opportunities to distribute more of its data;

  • Index, publish and syndicate its data to the internet using prevailing open standards, interfaces and formats;

  • Develop appropriate agreements to share its data with the Integrated Cadastral Information Society (ICIS) and encourage the ICIS to in turn share its data with the public at large

  • Develop a plan to digitize and freely distribute suitable archival data to the public;

  • Ensure that data supplied to the City by third parties (developers, contractors, consultants) are unlicensed, in a prevailing open standard format, and not copyrighted except if otherwise prevented by legal considerations;

  • License any software applications developed by the City of Vancouver such that they may be used by other municipalities, businesses, and the public without restriction.



Holy cow. Vancouver, you are my new hero. I’d pack my bags and move today if my TV weren’t so heavy.

Now, let’s contrast this with a face-palm story that broke today.

For quite a while now (~4 years), Marco Cappato, a Liberal member of the European Parliament, has tried to get access to the EU Council’s 2005 open source migration study, which can be generally summarized as “don’t”. Because he is a member of an IT oversight committee in the European Parliament, you’d think this wouldn’t be difficult. Turns out that isn’t the case.Via Slashdot last year:

‘…the [divulging] of [this] information could jeopardize the protection of commercial interest of Microsoft….the Secretariat general concludes that the protection of Microsoft’s commercial interests, being one of the commercial partners of the European institutions, prevails on the [divulging] for the public interest.’

Seriously? The EU commissioned a study on open source software migration, then said they couldn’t release it to one of their own parliament members because it might hurt Microsoft’s interests? Something smells rotten here.

Today the study found its way online, and we can get a firsthand sniff. Again via Slashdot:

…. the Council’s study has escaped into the wild (PDF in French and English). Here is a quick look. It is embarrassing! Gartner, when asked if there were any mature public Linux installations in Europe, claimed that there were none. Michael Silver said, ‘I have not spoken to any sizable deployments of Linux on the desktop and only one or two StarOffice deployments.’ Gartner spread patent and TCO FUD. Also, the European Patent Office participated in the project, although it is not an EU institution.

Oh, Gartner. One of their slides is titled “Three Faces of Linux Hype”. As one of the Slashdot posters noted, they even pitched Microsoft’s WinFS, which Microsoft first pitched in 1991 and is in the same vaporware category as Duke Nukem Forever. Probably worse, considering WinFS is more or less NTFS with a database layer on top of it. It really hits at the core problem with think tanks. When you pay people to do nothing but think, they have a tendency to think what they are getting paid to. The EPO being involved is so bizarre I don’t know what to say about it.

So there you have it. Two very different approaches to open source and open standards. Good on you Vancouver. And this one’s for you EU:

Disapproval