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DHS-sponsored audit: number of OSS code defects dropping

Coverity, in collaboration with Stanford University and under contract from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has just released their Open Source Report 2008 (PDF). Their environmental scan of major open source projects found that the number of defects in open source code is dramatically dropping! More detail is available on ArsTechnica.

Now that we have definitive data that shows that open source software is strong on security, how can we get libraries to participate more readily on collaborative open source projects (like citation management, ILSs, CMSs…)? I’m reminded of a thought experiment posted by Joe Lucia, University Librarian @ Villanova University, in November 2007 on the NewGenCatalog list. In his post, Mr. Lucia called for a “shift of those investments from commercial software support (and staff technical support for commercial products) to a collaborative support environment for open source applications.” Come on folks, let’s make this shift happen!

In 2006, Coverity’s scan detected an average of 0.30 defects per 1,000 lines of code, or, put differently, one code defects per every 3,333 lines. The lower boundary, in this case, was 0.02 (one defect per 50,000 lines) and the upper boundary was 1.22 defects per thousand lines of code.

Two years later, the average defect density has fallen to 0.25, or one error per 4,000 lines of code. The upper boundary remains unchanged at 1.22, but the lower boundary has shrunk to 0, implying that repeated scanning has eliminated the errors from at least one program—at least all the errors that Coverity’s 2006 static analysis program was able to detect.

A 16 percent reduction in defect density over two years is a notable gain, and Coverity singled out certain participating projects as having an exceptionally low defect density.

  • Postfix
  • Perl
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Samba

Open source thought experiment

There was a great post to NGC4Lib list (ngc4lib = "Next Generation Catalogs for libraries") yesterday by Joe Lucia, the University Librarian
at Villanova
, entitled a "thought experiment." In it, Lucia describes how to create next generation library systems via an open source collaborative commons. WOW!, a university librarian suggesting that a bunch of libraries get together to build an open source development system?! Thanks Joe Lucia for starting this conversation. I really hope it becomes more than simply a "thought experiment." Here’s one of the juicier bits:

If we look beyond money to personnel, the option looks even better. Let me suggest some numbers. What if, in the U.S., 50 ARL libraries, 20 large public libraries, 20 medium-sized academic libraries, and 20 Oberlin group libraries anted up one full-time technology position for collaborative open source development. That’s 110 developers working on library applications with robust, quickly-implemented current Web technology — not legacy stuff. There is not a company in the industry that I know of which has put that much technical effort into product development. With such a cohort of developers working in libraries on library technology needs — and in light of the creativity and thoughtfulness evident on forums like this one — I think we would quickly see radical change in the library technology arena. Instead of being technology followers, I venture to say that libraries might once again become leaders. Let’s add to the pool some talent from beyond the U.S. — say 20 libraries in Canada, 10 in Australia, and 10 in the U.K. put staff into the pool. We’ve now got 150 developers in this little start-up. Then we begin pouring our current software support funds into regional collaboratives. Within a year or two, we could be re-directing 10s of millions of dollars into regional technology development partnerships sponsored by and housed within the regional consortia, supporting and extending the work of libraries. The potential for innovation and rapid deployment of new tools boggles the mind. The resources at our disposal in this scenario dwarf what any software vendor in our small application space is ever going to support. And, as is implicit in all I’ve said, the NGC is just the tip of the iceberg.


[Thanks OSS4lib list!]

New EU study on open source

This one’s going to take a while to completely absorb, but I’d highly recommend that everyone check out the new, enormous (287 pages!) and wide-ranging study of Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS). The report, financed by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry, was written by Rishab Ayer Gosh and an international, interdisciplinary team of researchers. Based on this report, The European Commission has issued an endorsement of open-source software. CNet’s got the news on the report. Here’s the PDF of the document, also attached below.

The Economic impact of open source software on innovation and the competitiveness of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in the EU exhaustively documents the way that Free/Open technologies dominate information technology and describes who actually writes Free/Open software. It also talks about what it would cost to replicate the benefits of Free/Open software through proprietary development (EU12 billion!), how many person years that would take (131,000!), and projects the total size of the Free/Open market in the years to come.

This is the most authoritative study on Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) that I’ve seen to date. If you know of others, please post them to the comments.