[okfn-discuss] Wikipedia as SaaS by the OSSD?

Bastien bzg at altern.org
Fri Dec 21 17:20:52 UTC 2012

Hi Mike,

Mike Linksvayer <ml at gondwanaland.com> writes:

>> I see two problems with this "orthogonal" definition of SaaS:
>> (1) it doesn't really match the common meaning of the term and
>> (2) it is so broad than I don't see any website that it does *not*
>> cover.
> Indeed, any website could be considered either Open Software Service
> Definition conformant, or not...

That's a bit of a tautology, right?  :)

If every website is a "software as a service" then all the discussions
about software as a service are of little value IMHO.

>> I agree FSF's definition can also have some problems, but at least
>> it's narrow enough to limit the topic.
> ...SaaS can't be rigorously defined.

Why?  A definition can be formal and operational, or only one of them,
or none.  The definition of a triangle is both formal and operational,
because it is a non-ambiguous description, and this description refers
to some things we recognize as such in the real world.

The definition of SaaS can be formal (i.e. "any computation of your data
that is done by a server accessible through the internet") but not 100%
operational (i.e. "if this is a computation that you would normally do
by yourself.")  I acknowledge that the second part is not operational,
because it's relative to what users are used to, can evolve with time,
etc.  But still, the definition is formal and refers to something less
general than the current OSSD.

> https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/who-does-that-server-really-serve.html
> provides some illumination on a particular dimension ("your
> computing"), and certainly services implicating your computing are far
> more interesting than most others for OSSD conformance. But many
> things in that essay ruled out as doing your computing are also
> extremely interesting for OSSD conformance, including Wikipedia.

I'd be curious to see people really arguing that Wikipedia is "software
as a service".  (And yes, the FSF has no problem with Wikipedia.)

> I don't see any need to narrow the topic. Perhaps in part because I
> don't see the Open Definition group isn't going to be certifying
> particular service instances as OSSD conforming any more than it
> certifies particular works as Open Knowledge Definition conformant
> (and a work can certainly be published under an OKD conformant license
> and not be an OKD conformant work). And in part because I see some
> social benefit, perhaps small, of comprehensive openness, even if a
> site is just publishing information, analogous to a local program
> which just displays a single artwork (such things used to be pretty
> common). It isn't incredibly important that such things be open, but
> they ought to be, still.

I agree with the openness.  It's also good to keep things simple and
straightforward when you want to _inform_ people at large.

I just don't see the value of a definition that does not help anyone
distinguishing SaaS from any website -- or free SaaS from any website
using free softwares and delivering free content (e.g. all the wp
websites using CC-by-sa.)

I think this will confuse people.  

Even if OD is not delivering certificates, I assume its goal is to
promote openness, and it can do so by providing a clear picture of what
is SaaS, then of what is free SaaS.

>>> We could use more examples, but honestly I'm not sure anything
>>> relating to Wave is intuitive for many people. And there's a
>>> distinction between software which is amenable to powering an
>>> OSSD-conformant service, and a service itself (eg
>>> MediaWiki/Wikipedia). Maybe Kune.cc is OSSD-conformant; I haven't
>>> looked closely.
>> Kune is just a website to facilitate online collaboration.
>> I think it is OSSD-conformant, but I'll forward the question to the
>> developers and let them reply if they can.
> I thought Kune is software, which a number of services (websites)
> might run. 

You're right, it is.

> Software might be written in a way that facilitate OSSD
> conformance of an instance, or even makes a new installation OSSD
> conformant by default. Conformant instances, and software that by
> default creates conformant instances, all great, of course!

Yes, that's what they try to do :)


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