[okfn-discuss] Open Service Definition

Francis Irving francis at flourish.org
Tue Oct 24 19:18:13 BST 2006

On Tue, Oct 24, 2006 at 05:31:13PM +0100, Rufus Pollock wrote:
> I take your point that the service part is valuable but I do think for 
> the 'openness' aspect the crucial part is data. As long as the data is 
> rich enough and open you can always leave. Perhaps that takes us some 
> way towards defining an open service:

I would love OKF to have a formal definition for an "open service".
Especially since the open source and free software people seem
singularly unable to deal with this issue. Someone needs to step in.

[ People are still licensing web applications under the GPL (e.g.
WordPress, and even heck my own stuff like Public Whip for want of
a better license), as if that was any different from the BSD license
for that purpose. May as well call a spade a spade if they're
not going to come up with a proper Affero GPL-like license. ]
>   * Its data (+ api) is open (and where there are privacy issues that 
> means available to that user).

I'm not completely sure that APIs are helpful, as what you really 
want is ALL the personal data you care about, guaranteed. I kind of
think "can download all the data in a nice format that you can reuse"
is better. e.g. Google Spreadsheet meets this criteria, as you can
download your spreadsheets as Excel or OpenDocument files.

You might have a complicated API, and not know how to get all your
data out. And it is hard to verify that even if you wrote a program
that called all the functions in the API and saved the data, that
you would get all of it.

>   * That data can be accessed in an automated manner.
>   * (?) Its source code is F/OSS

The latter isn't strong enough, I don't think. At least if that means
"the code is licensed under an open source license". It has to be
that the running code on the server is publically downloadable and
that that download is licensed under an open source license.

This needs careful definition, of course, as you have to say exactly
how much of the server code and environment needs to be open source.
And worry about whether it makes calls to any non-open web services
in turn, and so on.

Should the definition somehow mention the Open Knowledge Definition?
Might help simplify it.

Looks good as a first pass, nice one Rufus.

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