A journey into the open
I’ve always been a fan of working in the open and ensuring that the work I do (we do) as an organisation helps as many individuals as possible. But to be honest I’ve never quite understood what is all means.
The term ‘Open Source’ denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. However, its more than just about giving access to the source code, to be truly open source you need to adhere to the following requirements (Open Source Initiative):
- Free Redistribution
- Source Code
- Derived Works
- Integrity of The Author’s Source Code
- No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
- No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavour
- Distribution of License
- License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
- License Must Not Restrict Other Software
- License Must Be Technology-Neutral
As the work I do uses Open Badges – built on open source technology which is widely used across an ever growing expanse of platforms, badge issuers and the community as a whole – so clearly I work in the open, right? I think I do, but I know I could do more. Looking at those requirements and checking them off against the work I do, is something I’ve had to (and am still) getting my head around.
In a recent collaboration with the Mozilla Learning team – I got to understand how I can take our work to the next level of openness. Creating publicly available badge projects is one thing, but it’s another when they’re confined to one platform – even if that is your own. What truly makes a badge project open is its ability to be taken, maybe remixed, and utilised anywhere across the web. Be that on a different badging platform, or via a completely different delivery means entirely.
So let’s take a look at some of those requirements in more detail in relation to this piece of work. Do I/We fall down anywhere?
I think we’re OK with distribution, source code and derived works etc, and we definitely don’t discriminate against persons, groups or endeavours. The project itself was built upon our own Open Badge Academy platform, but has already been forked for use on Credly, and can be taken and adapted/used on any badge issuing platform (and not strictly just badge based platforms I guess)
However, a greyer area for me comes with the final point ‘License Must Be Technology-Neutral’ — The badge ‘pack’ in its very name alludes to the fact that the work needs to be specific to badges, but there would be no stopping someone picking up the resources and focusing on their use, as opposed to accrediting and recognising the learning through badges. Would be happy to hear thoughts and opinions on this point.
So, where now?
As a company we’ve moved to hosting (if this is the right word) all of our code, framework – platform etc on GitHub, so I felt this would probably be the best place to create our first Open Source Open Badge project (Christ that’s a mouthful but is better than ‘OSOB’) I won’t bore you with the details but after a bit of playing around it’s a fairly simple process – I found using markdown quite a nice way to help share the content more dynamically.
The whole project isn’t quite finished yet, I still need to extract the JSON for each of the badges from our platform – another steep learning curve I imagine – and I’m sure they’ll be refining and tweaking along the way, but it’s definitely started to make me think about how we could be a should be doing more in the Open.
So, how can you get involved in what we’ve been doing? The whole project is freely available on GitHub here, but if you need support and help getting started with a Web Literacy SoW in your organisation or setting then please get in touch and we can help you spin out an instance on Open Badge Academy.
N.B – this is by no means a first for badges becoming more open source – both Badgr and Open Badge Passport have a huge open source presence and should be credited where it’s due – but this is a first for Digitalme, however it most certainly won’t be the end of the road for myself and the rest of the team here.