7 Questions To Ask Any Open Source Project

Simon Phipps | InfoWorld | January 21, 2015

Whether you're starting an open source project or deciding whether to participate in one, you don't want to waste time in an endeavor that imposes arbitrary restrictions that will stop you in your tracks down the line.  The Open Source Initiative, of which I am president, has successfully focused on copyright licensing as a concrete expression of software freedom. OSI does not only provide guidance in the form of the Open Source Definition; it also manages a process by which the copyright licenses used for outbound licensing by open source authors can gain OSI approval.

Here’s a model I use in my consulting engagements to help clients work through their proposals for new open source community activities. Evaluating a project's licensing, patent, and community management strategy should begin with the question: How confident are community members that they have permission in advance to do what they need to succeed? See below for examples.

1. Am I granted copyright permission? An OSI-approved license guarantees this; does it apply to all your code? If there are portions of your code that remain proprietary, a community is not truly free to form around the code. Developers wanting to enhance or even deploy that portion of the code do not have permission in advance, so probably won’t want to join you...