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Re: [] [okfn-discuss] Wikipedia as SaaS by the OSSD?

From: Mike Linksvayer
Subject: Re: [] [okfn-discuss] Wikipedia as SaaS by the OSSD?
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2013 16:22:35 -0800

On Sun, Dec 30, 2012 at 7:49 AM, Bastien <address@hidden> wrote:
> Mike Linksvayer <address@hidden> writes:
>> Unless you define some websites as not software services, in which
>> case you get nothing (or an exception) instead of conformant or
>> not-conformant. I guess this is your point, that some sites (maybe
>> including Wikipedia) aren't software services, thus OSSD not relevant
>> to them, and OSSD related documents shouldn't give them as examples,
>> let alone the only example.
> Yes, exactly my point.

Ok. BTW, I just updated
based on your edits at
... thanks and further from all welcome. A funny thing I noticed while
looking at the examples --
answers "No.  Not more than does the server-side of an MTA like
sendmail or postfix."

>> For me, an inclusive, even tautological, definition of software
>> service shouldn't be an obstacle to focusing on the most
>> interesting/strong examples, though perhaps providing Wikipedia as an
>> example is an illustration that it is an obstacle.
> This is a *wrong* illustration IMHO, my single important point, really.
>> "Your data" interpreted broadly could include request necessarily sent
>> to any website, and used in computation to retrieve appropriate
>> document, but admittedly this is extreme.
> Well, more than extreme... and processing a request is no real
> computation, is it?

Maybe not computation of significant concern regarding being performed
for a user and not under that user's control, but it is computation.

>> But even where a site is only a software service to a reader in a
>> facile way, might be a software service to a writer. Consider
> Yes, I get this point.

FWIW, I think it's a pretty important one: it highlights the
dependence of speech on services run by third parties, and also why
Wikipedia still might be interesting as a service. How is it unlike except that authoring is collaborative? (Obviously in
many ways, but with respect to performing computation for users, ie
being a software service.)

>> I see the primary value in providing a clear picture of what is needed
>> to be Open, rather than what is needed to be a Software Service, which
>> I see as a lot more confusing.
> This would be like promoting "free software" by focusing on what "free"
> means even before having a steady definition for "software".  I would
> take the opposite route.  (Note that in the case of free software, there
> is this weird evolution where the "free" part of "free software" tends
> to become clearer than the "software" part...)

I recognize that software is not as clear cut as it might seem
intuitively, but I don't think that's been a big obstacle to
discussing software freedom.

>> But this scoping discussion is good to
>> have as a prelude to considering what to do with the OSSD going
>> forward, and I'd be happy to be wrong about where the most potential
>> for promotion and confusion sits. Please continue to tell me I'm
>> wrong; I have learned a bit so far from this friendly discussion.
> Me too -- thanks for being open to criticism.
> I suspect the intention of defining "Open SaaS" was due to the fact that
> we have a definition for "free software".  Intuitively, we guess there
> is an analogy, we draw it quickly (although fuzzily) in our minds, and
> then we replace the words (s/free/open and s/software/SaaS) in hope the
> new definition will be formal and operational -- i.e. in hope reality
> will bend to our will, like children ;)

It's not a replacement of "software" with "software service" but a
union of "knowledge" and "software service". I suspect without the
former the Open Software Service Definition never would have been an
OKFN project. SaaS as a challenge for FLOSS (definitional and/or
actual) is an interesting question independent of knowledge
provisioned/produced via a network service (I slipped a second, but
"network service" is actually how I usually think of such; have been
sticking to "software service" here since that's in the name of the

> But two fuzzy things doesn't make one clear.

How about via the addition of a third
unclear-enough-to-need-an-officious-definition thing (knowledge)? ;-)

> So instead of directly
> defining Open SaaS -- as if the *real thing* behind was existing -- I
> would suggest to start from other (more obvious?) facts, and then to
> delineate a region where things are as we want them to be.
> Imagine a form with questions like these:
> - what kind of software are you using (free/non-free)?
> - what kind of user data are you processing?
> - what kind of processing are you doing on them?
> - what kind of access do the users have on their data?
> - what kind of control do the users have on their data?
> - (how) does the user know about all this?
> Depending on the replies, webmasters would fall (or not) into the
> category of "free-knowledge friendly" websites ... Open SaaS being
> only one possible (but IMO problematic) category.

That would be interesting a) data to have and b) explanation of
various dimensions relevant to user freedom/openness on knowledge
services not directly under user control. I imagine something like
this could supplement the OSSD, or even replace it if consensus
develops that it is confusing rather than enlightening as it stands.
Maybe in an alternative better universe this kind of data would have
been gathered prior to any definition creation. :)

> Well, I've been long.  A happy new year to everyone!

And to you!


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