“In open source, we feel strongly that to really do something well, you have to get a lot of people involved.”
– Linus Torvalds
The OWF initiative to Provide Stewardship for Open Source Software Water Resources Software seeks to provide stability for water resources software tools that have value for software users, but do not have ongoing maintenance and support resources. Below are ways that OWF is working as a steward for software tools.
Develop Standards for Open Source Water Resource Software Projects
Quite often, developers of useful water resources software are not software developers. They are engineers that have had to solve a problem and did so by writing a software program. Many years ago the end result would have been a FORTRAN program. Then Visual Basic. Then C and C++. Then Java and Perl. And more recently Python, Matlab, or some other language. And, there is always Microsoft Excel and Esri’s ArcGIS. In some cases, a software program that has served well simply runs out of support resources as the original authors change jobs or retire. In many cases, a tool is developed by a contractor and at the end of a project is provided to the customer “as is” or with minimal documentation, not as a production tool but simply as an artifact of a project. This approach can lead to “reinventing the wheel” because the next person or project often cannot understand previous work and creates a new tool. The OWF recognizes the challenge posed by the above cases. Our approach is to support useful software programs and/or integrate the functionality of such software into better supported platforms by developing and implementing standards for open source water resource software projects:
- Implementing revision control for source code and use of standard development tools
- Migrating to open source components to encourage transparency and collaboration
- Writing documentation for software developers and users
- Implementing automated testing
- Creating training materials
- Creating software installations
- Supporting users
Serve as Steward for Open Source Water Resources Software
Many water resources organizations have developed software tools that they can no longer maintain. The OWF is interested in serving as steward for such tools in their existing form or integrating the functionality of tools into the software that we actively maintain. Contact the OWF if your organization is having difficulty maintaining software but needs to retain the ability to use a legacy software product. We will help your organization implement an open source software project and OWF will collaborate to put in place a steward for the software using guidelines discussed in the previous section.