[okfn-discuss] Re: Open Service Definition

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Tue Oct 31 09:55:50 GMT 2006

Apologies for the delayed reply -- I somehow missed this when it came in 
last week. Comments interleaved below.

Francis Irving wrote:
> 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.

I was using API here in the context of the discussion in the previous 
email. That is it really is just shorthand for saying that that data 
format should be open (i.e. either give it out in a standard and 
well-known open format or provide code (an 'api') which provides for 
easy access and processing of the said data). Frankly reading over this 
it is just confusing and this requirement should be changed to:

   * Its data is open as defined by the open knowledge definition though 
with the exception that where the data is personal in nature the data 
need only be made available to the user (i.e. the owner of that account).

Remark: The OKD requires technological openness (i.e. provision in an 
open format)

> 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.

I entirely agree. As I said in my previous comment I wasn't advocating 
open APIs in the traditional sense (we've already discussed their 

>>  * 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.

Again I agree the source code should be F/OSS and must be made available 
  (this ties into the open knowledge definition's social access 
requirement: not only should be allowed to get the information but you 
should actually be able to do so).

> 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.

Good point though I'm not sure that calls to non-open web services would 
be a problem. Sure it would render the service pretty useless without 
access to them but one allows F/OSS software to use non F/OSS libraries 
(e.g. Windows APIs ...)

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

Yes I think one can reuse the OKD in defining what one means by open data.


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