Koha ILS

Community, why Open Source is more than just releasing code

I would like to take a moment to reflect on our community, the Koha community. We are an Open Source community. We are a group of users, supporters and developers who have, for one reason or another, chosen to invest in the Koha project.

I would like to posit a question; Does Koha being open source make our community open source, or is it the other way around?Christian Heilmann writes:

“[…] we run a current danger of cheapening the term “open source‚Äù. Releasing an open source product is much more than making it available for free. It is a process, an ongoing commitment to nurturing something by sharing it with the world.”1

To revisit the seminal workThe Cathedral and the Bazaar2, a famous essay byEric S. Raymond, what good is a bazaar with only one shop?

Koha is an interesting and possibly unique study in this area, as it has been forked and effectively cathedral-ized multiple times by multiple vendors. For those who do not know the history of it, Koha is a server based system released under the GPL. The GPL only requires changes to source code be given to whomever is given a compiled binary of said source. In the case of Koha, it can be effectively cathedral-ized by modifying the code in-house and restricting the use of the software to “hosting-only” options. In this way, there is no requirement for the modified source code to be released to anyone, not even to the customers using it.3It should be noted that this is perfectly legal, and well within a vendors rights, but is it the best course of action for the customers?

Currently, there is one major ‘fork’ of Koha, which first began a number of years ago. The source code to this fork was only recently released ( Heilmann would call this “Ta-da source” ). This event can give us some real insight into how beneficial and important the bazaar is to an open source project. Using Ohloh4 we can directly compare the two branches of the same original software and see somesurprisingdifferences. Here is condensed and cherry-picked version of what can be found:

Community Koha Forked Koha
Estimated Cost $12,452,994.00 $5,301,067.00

All Time Activity

Contributors (All Time) 238 developers 142 developers
Commits (All Time) 18,140 commits 12,497 commits

12 Month Activity

Contributors (Past 12 Months) 89 developers 11 developers
Commits (Past 12 Months) 2,124 commits 222 commits
Files Modified 5,749 files 133 files
Lines Added 264,444 lines 2,164 lines
Lines Removed 463,847 lines 2,067 lines
Year-Over-Year Commits Stable Decreasing

30 Day Activity

Contributors (Past 30 Days) 20 contributors No Activity
Commits (Past 30 Days) 97 commits
Files Modified 249 files
Lines Added 3,932 lines
Lines Removed 1,370 lines

Code Analysis

Lines of Code 816,789 lines 362,646 lines

3. This form of “closing” an open source project was theimpetusfor the AGPL.
4. Ohloh

Read more by Kyle Hall