New release for Neubot, the Net Neutrality monitor

Neubot is a “software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet” in order to quantify network neutrality. The software is aresearch project on network neutrality of the NEXA Center for Internet & Society at Politecnico di Torino. The project is based on a lightweight open-source program that interested users can download and install on their computers. The program runs in background and periodically performs transmission tests with some test servers and with other instances of the program itself. These transmission tests probe the Internet using various application level protocols. The program saves tests results locally and uploads them on the project servers. The collected dataset contains samples from various Providers and allows to monitor network neutrality.

Monitoring network neutrality is crucial because it enables a deeper understanding of operators behavior. This is paramount at a time when there is a broad discussion regarding changes in network neutrality policies. The availability of quantitative datasets collected by independent researchers should rebalance, at least in part, the deep information asymmetry between Internet Service Providers and other interested stakeholders (including regulators and citizens), and should provide a more reliable basis for discussing policies.

It is distributed as: a .deb package for Debian and Ubuntu; a zipped application for MacOSX; an installer for Windows XP SP3+. It is also available in source format.

Read Neubot 0.3.7 release notes.

Choose a good license and manage well the community

Some of the things that Mike Tienman said in this interview with InternetNews.com I could have said myself.

I have come to believe that a license alone is neither a secret to success nor an absolution of sin.

Exactly: choosing a free license is a moral choice but that alone won’t secure neither commercial success nor any other success of the project.

“It’s a lot easier to bring tools to the community than it is to bring community to the tools,” Tiemann said. “I think that the importance of community cannot be overestimated.”

How can I agree more? My job as community manager is to facilitate the community on the path to such tools.

“I do believe that licensing is a key component that underpins a successful community effort,” Tiemann said. “The license, in a sense, dictates how the community can or should be expected to behave.”

Basically, you need to choose a free software license and to manage the community in order to enable success.  Do you see why I could have said all this myself?

via LinuxPlanet – Interviews – What Matters to Open Source: Licensing or Community? – More to FOSS Than Licenses.

Funambol asks EU to approve the Oracle+Sun deal

I was very concerned when DG Competition announced that they needed to take more time to investigate the merger of Oracle and Sun because of MySQL. The deal for me seemed not only natural for business reasons, but also naturally neutral towards consumers.  MySQL is safe also in Oracle’s hands because the project, with so many big companies knowing its internals, is basically too big to fail now. Even if Oracle should decide not to finance its development (which makes absolutely no business sense for them) there should be enough providers out there capable of offering support to users and further its development (software patents threat excluded).

I’m very happy that Funambol has sent a letter to European Commissioner Neelie Kroes asking her to approve rapidly the Oracle + Sun merger. I totally agree with Fabrizio Capobianco, Funambol’ CEO, put all his

The database market is highly dynamic, and the software on which these enterprises are built can neither be owned nor their development paths easily controlled or curtailed.

And the damage for this wait is huge, not just for the companies, but for the employee. With Sun loosing $100Million per month, there is not much time to waste. Says Fabrizio:

The alternative to a full merger is likely to be the exit of SUN Microsystems from the database market. […] Their likely exit from the market will harm the open source software market and further entrench the position of proprietary software providers.

I hope that Commissioner Kroes listens and that Funambol’s letter can help clear her doubts.

How To Mix Agile And Software Developed By A Community

Back from Italian Agile Day where Stefano Fornari of Funambol with Marco Abis of Sourcesense animated a debate about mixing Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) and Agile development methods. I used to think that there was no issue because, after all, free software is a way to release software and it’s not a development method like many still think. Strictly speaking, what makes software free and open source is its license, not how it’s developed. But a lot of FLOSS is indeed developed in similar ways, with distributed teams, volunteer based contributions, merithocracy based leadership and so on. Some of these traits make FLOSS and Agile difficult to mix.

At Funambol we love Agile, me included, and we love to try new things so we proposed an experiment mixing Agile methods with community based development into a new Funambol Code Sniper program. The slideshow below summarizes the basis of this experiment based on the assumption that the community is the Product Owner of the new software.  The community will have to define the user stories and also to define when they’re DONE.

There are still a few grey areas, the biggest being how to distribute rewarding to contributors. I think they should be proportionate to the efforts put into the project. Even if it is possible to evaluate code contributions proportionally to story points (or hours/weeks), code is only a part of software development. Bug reporting, quality assurance, feedback and even writing user stories is important as well: how to evaluate these other kind of contributions? What do you think?

How To Evaluate Free Software Business

There are many companies making money with Free/Open Source Software and it’s still not easy to identify a free software company.  I’ve always advocated to put respect of customers’ needs and ethics in digital society as one of the crucial elements to identify a free software business.

Simon Phipps has put together a scorecard, a set of indicators to identify and evaluate companies that use, develop and sell free software based on the adherence to the principles of the Free Software and Open Source movements.

His speech in Bolzano this week is worth listening to. I think this is the right path to advancing  our movement.

A Software Freedom Scorecard [on Simon Phipps, SunMink].

Don’t call it Scrum

Gianugo Rabellino has given me more food for thoughts about my research on Free/Libre Open Source software development and Agile/Scrum methods. His latest post contains a sentence that summarizes my key finding so far:

At the end of the day, this means that the customer is there – it just happens to coincide with the community as a whole.

Talking with my Funambol colleagues, the pragmatic agilists, and looking at Ross Gardler presentation below, I have the confirmation that the Pentaho guys are on the right track with Open Scrum. I also learned that it’s better not to use the word Scrum if it’s not The Scrum you’re talking about. With that in mind, I’m now focusing on best practices for communication between developers distributed around the world (more in latest posts).

View more presentations from Ross Gardler.

SCRUM and volunteer developers

SCRUM development process
SCRUM development process

Funambol engineering team uses the SCRUM methodology to develop software. It’s a very interesting method that seems highly compatible with free/libre open source software development habits. It mandates fast release cycles (like the release early/release often mantra), teams that can self-organize. SCRUM also mandates fixed time (2 to 6 weeks) to complete a development cycle (called iteration or sprint). This last part doesn’t seem to be very compatible with contributions by volunteers.

I’ve been looking for other free software projects that use SCRUM internally to understand how they involve external contributors, volunteers, in strictly time constrained release cycles. Pentaho wiki has a very interesting paper on the topic, but I still don’t understand if they have established a process to assign user stories to volunteer contributors.

I wonder if some have tried and failed or nobody has ever tried this at all.

Cost saving is the wrong argument, but it may work

Scott Mc Nealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has been asked by the new Obama administration to prepare a paper about ‘open source’. From what I read on the BBC report, though, he is using a tired losing proposition:

The secret to a more secure and cost effective government is through open source technologies and products.

To me statements like these look too much like a “worn-out dogma” that open source is gratis, costs less, is more secure.’  These arguments have been demolished by plenty of evidence in real life and by academic research. They can easily sink under the fires of the Microsoft, Adobe, IBM and Oracle of the world.

Probably there is a remote chance that the winds of change blowing in Obama’s sails will make Mc Nealy’s and OSI’s arguments float. What do you think?

via BBC NEWS | Technology | Calls for open source government.

Ritorno dal convegno “Open Source come modello di business”

Ieri ho partecipato alla tavola rotonda dopo il convegno Open Source come modello di business da cui sono rientrato poco impressionato: mi sembrava tutto troppo 1.0, già  visto. Non mi hanno impressionato le ricerche presentate da un dottorando di ingegneria, I modelli manageriali dei progetti Open Source e Qualità  e costi del software Open Source. Non so perché, ma davo per scontato che fossero noti i lavori di Rossi e Bonaccorsi (2002), Daffara (COSPA, FLOSSMETRICS), IDABC, UNU-Merit, ecc che “Open Source” non è legato ad un solo modo (distribuito) di sviluppare software, che i repository di SourceForge contengono pochi progetti attivi ed economicamente significativi, che la qualità  del codice è mediamente alta (ma che non ci sono termini di paragone con la qualità  del codice proprietario, essendo questo invisibile) e altro … Pensavo di sentire qualcosa di nuovo almeno dagli USA, invece il professor Anthony I. Wasserman (Executive Director of the Center for Open Source Investigation, Carnegie Mellon West) si è limitato ad un’introduzione generica al tema. Interessante l’intervento di Massimiliano Magi Spinetti di ABI Lab, sui risultati dell’analisi domanda e offerta nel settore bancario. È stato un convegno introduttivo al tema, speriamo che la Fondazione Politecnico ne organizzi presto una nuova edizione con nuovi contenuti. Evidentemente c’è ancora molta comunicazione da fare.

Nel mio breve intervento alla tavola rotonda ho provato a spiegare che il Software Libero o Open Source non è un settore distaccato, non è un mercato diverso. Il settore è lo stesso, quello dello sviluppo software e le regole del business rimangono tutte valide. La differenza la fanno solo le licenze, gli strumenti legali che concedono diritti di uso, studio, modifica e distribuzione ai clienti. Punto. Open Source non è un modello di business ma è una leva strategica a disposizione del management, sia di chi compra che di vende software o servizi. E ho aggiunto che è una leva imprescindibile: nel settore è in atto una disruption, uno sconvolgimento degli equilibri stabiliti destinato a buttare fuori dal mercato tutti gli incumbent (e i fallimenti di Silicon Graphics e SCO o le nuove strategie di IBM e Sun lo dimostrano). Un caso da manuale di innovazione radicale con cui tutti gli attori, domanda e offerta, devono confrontarsi senza esclusione.

Disruptive technology

Per questo alla domanda “cosa possono fare le aziende italiane? L’Open Source può aiutarle?” non potevo che far notare che il FLOSS va valutato obbligatoriamente anche per le aziende italiane, se vogliono sperare di continuare ad esistere. D’accordo con il prof. Fuggetta: molte opportunità  esistono nei sistemi embedded, tutti i sistemi di automazione meccanica, automotive, negli elettrodomestici. Solo con il FLOSS si può sperare di restare sulla curva dell’innovazione e mantenere la speranza di non essere buttati fuori dal mercato.

Update: Andrea Genovese su 7thfloor dà  una visione più ampia del convegno in generale.