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

Bastien bzg at altern.org
Sun Dec 30 15:49:06 UTC 2012

Hi Mike,

Mike Linksvayer <ml at gondwanaland.com> writes:

> Unless you define some websites as not software services, in which
> case you get nothing (or an exception) instead of conformant or
> not-conformant. I guess this is your point, that some sites (maybe
> including Wikipedia) aren't software services, thus OSSD not relevant
> to them, and OSSD related documents shouldn't give them as examples,
> let alone the only example.

Yes, exactly my point.

>> If every website is a "software as a service" then all the discussions
>> about software as a service are of little value IMHO.
> Hmm, I did not suspect the reason, but indeed, I have found little
> value in most SaaS discussions in the world. ;-)

I did find some value sometimes, for a certain value of "some" ;)

> For me, an inclusive, even tautological, definition of software
> service shouldn't be an obstacle to focusing on the most
> interesting/strong examples, though perhaps providing Wikipedia as an
> example is an illustration that it is an obstacle.

This is a *wrong* illustration IMHO, my single important point, really.

> "Your data" interpreted broadly could include request necessarily sent
> to any website, and used in computation to retrieve appropriate
> document, but admittedly this is extreme.

Well, more than extreme... and processing a request is no real
computation, is it?

> But even where a site is only a software service to a reader in a
> facile way, might be a software service to a writer. Consider
> wordpress.com.

Yes, I get this point.

> I see the primary value in providing a clear picture of what is needed
> to be Open, rather than what is needed to be a Software Service, which
> I see as a lot more confusing. 

This would be like promoting "free software" by focusing on what "free"
means even before having a steady definition for "software".  I would
take the opposite route.  (Note that in the case of free software, there
is this weird evolution where the "free" part of "free software" tends
to become clearer than the "software" part...)

> But this scoping discussion is good to
> have as a prelude to considering what to do with the OSSD going
> forward, and I'd be happy to be wrong about where the most potential
> for promotion and confusion sits. Please continue to tell me I'm
> wrong; I have learned a bit so far from this friendly discussion.

Me too -- thanks for being open to criticism.

I suspect the intention of defining "Open SaaS" was due to the fact that
we have a definition for "free software".  Intuitively, we guess there
is an analogy, we draw it quickly (although fuzzily) in our minds, and
then we replace the words (s/free/open and s/software/SaaS) in hope the
new definition will be formal and operational -- i.e. in hope reality
will bend to our will, like children ;)

But two fuzzy things doesn't make one clear.  So instead of directly
defining Open SaaS -- as if the *real thing* behind was existing -- I
would suggest to start from other (more obvious?) facts, and then to
delineate a region where things are as we want them to be.

Imagine a form with questions like these: 

- what kind of software are you using (free/non-free)?
- what kind of user data are you processing?
- what kind of processing are you doing on them?
- what kind of access do the users have on their data?
- what kind of control do the users have on their data?
- (how) does the user know about all this?

Depending on the replies, webmasters would fall (or not) into the
category of "free-knowledge friendly" websites ... Open SaaS being
only one possible (but IMO problematic) category.

Well, I've been long.  A happy new year to everyone!


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