[Gllug] open source centric ICT in Schools from Sept 2012 ?

James Courtier-Dutton james.dutton at gmail.com
Fri Jan 13 12:44:58 UTC 2012

On 13 January 2012 11:01, Alain Williams <addw at phcomp.co.uk> wrote:
> I have always believed that open standards are much more important than
> open source[**]. If you have open standards (ie documentation good enough to
> allow independent implementation) that is freely available then you have
> the potential to stop one company (or cartel) from dominating.

In reality, the documentation of any protocol or file format is rarely
good enough to implement a new version of software to work with it.
The document will invariably be interpreted by different people in
different ways.
You then need to go to interoperability workshops and do lots of tests
to make it work fully.
The best documentation is a full open source implementation, including
all error paths.

So, I disagree with your view that open standards is enough.
Open standards with an open source reference implementation is really
the minimum requirement.

Well defined interfaces is what is really needed.
This is why XML is quite good, because it forces people to fully
define the interface between two software components.

Take the new National NHS computer system that failed quite
spectacularly, never going into the production use.
The main reason it failed is because the project was too big and had
too many dependencies.
 If they had approached the system by first defining the interfaces
between components.
For example, defined the interface between a doctors surgery and the
central data center.
Multiple contractors could have competed for the "doctor's surgery"
component, and as long as they interchanged data correctly with the
central data center they would work fine. This would leave it up to
the individual doctor's surgery which software product they purchased
to do the job. Instead, the new National NHS computer system mandated
the same software to be used at every GP surgery, and this caused many
implementation problems.
Just defining the interface, would also have reduced the dependencies,
because the central data centre part of the project would not have
been impacted by the problems occurring at the doctor's surgeries.
This caused problem for doctors, that they had no power to fix. But if
instead they had purchased their own software for the job, they could
have fixed it themselves, or swapped it for another supplier's
software that did work. This would give the GP the power to fix their
own problems.
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