NHIN code-a-thon may change government attitude toward open source

NHIN code-a-thon may change government attitude toward open source

Summary: While open source code has won approval from the Obama Administration, the processes by which such code is developed have not fared as well.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Open Source
9

Tomorrow, the Department of Health and Human Services will host its first "code-a-thon" dedicated to the National Health Information Network and its Connect software.

About 80 programmers, led by Apache developer (and Collabnet employee) Brian Behlendorf, will spend about four hours trying to stamp out bugs in the open source software gateway, which is based on National Health Information Network (NHIN) conventions.

Behlendorf's presence is not ceremonial, as CollabNet runs the military's forge.mil open source forge site.

The code-a-thon, and the resulting code, could be a great demonstration of the power of open source in dealing with big problems like health care. The participation of Behlendorf offers hope the open source movement will have a great success.

While open source code has won approval from the Obama Administration, the processes by which such code is developed have not fared as well.

While the Veterans Administration is still working with its open source VistA platform, for instance, it has placed a moratorium on accepting code from local VA facilities. Instead of developing VistA through a network of collaborators, open source IT advocate Fred Trotter writes, "it will be centrally developed by a single, controlling entity."

The decision may improve security and manageability of the code base, but it's also going to slow down development, and give one contract holder control of the software.

Whether Behlendorf and his code-a-thon can give U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra a little open source religion may be an open question. As Virginia CTO Chopra outsourced development work to India under a master contract signed with Northrup-Grumman which has since become highly controversial.

Are open source projects that are centrally controlled by single vendors really open source projects, or are they proprietary projects using open source as a feature? That's a question the Obama Administration needs to answer if it's to get full value from open source.

Topic: Open Source

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

9 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Most open source IS centrally developed

    Just about all GNU software is centrally developed. OOo is centrally developed. MySQL is centrally developed. Linux and maybe a couple others are about the only ones that are not.

    Michael Kelly
    • Most generalizations are wrong

      :)
      IT_User
      • AND...

        99.6 percent of all statistics are incorrect.
        handydan918@...
      • RE: NHIN code-a-thon may change government attitude toward open source

        As Virginia CTO Chopra outsourced development work to India under a master contract signed with Northrup-Grumman which has since become highly controversial.<a href="http://ipadbagblog.com/"><font color="LightGrey"> k</font></a>
        zakkiromi
  • @Dana Much improved

    I am pleased to see this blog post is more scientifically balanced than your previous blog post imbalances.

    [[i]Edit: Grammatical correction[/i]]
    Isocrates
  • Agree with Michael Kelly

    Here are a few generalities of my own:

    Most large open source projects are well controlled and structured. Most small open source projects are run by benevolent dictators. Either way code contributions are screened and approved by a controlling minority.

    Have you ever tried committing code to Apache? It's trial by fire - and that's if you can get a core contributor to even look at your contribution.

    The notion of a large group of developers all independently adding code is largely a myth - and a harmful one.
    jimmyed2000
  • Read the document, form your own opinion

    I read the 'moratorium' document. Seems like a sensible plan that tries to support innovation, enable locally-developed solutions, and reduce the risk of outages.

    I disagree with Fred Trotter's statements about the document.

    The document says:
    A Field Development process will ensure field-developed solutions to address local requirements meet national standards and are adequately documented, reviewed, and tested prior to deployment

    So they want locally developed solution to be high quality. Anyone think that is a bad thing?

    Also:
    The Innovation Program will provide a safe, supported environment where new concepts can be developed/refined/tested.

    So they want to encourage innovation. Objections anyone?

    Also:
    No new or modified Class III (locally developed) software and no further modifications to Class I software will be installed in the production environment unless:
    a. The software completes the established Class III to Class I process; or
    b. The software completes the approved IT Field Development Process

    So they want locally developed solutions to undergo an approved process. This all seems rational to me.

    In my opinion the VA is not backtracking on an open source stance, they are maturing it, and increasing the chance that it will be enduring.
    jimmyed2000
  • RE: NHIN code-a-thon may change government attitude toward open source

    Maybe I just don't have a good caffeine load yet, but I couldn't get my head around the actual central theme of the article.
    twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
  • RE: NHIN code-a-thon may change government attitude toward open source

    The NHIN is good for existing/legacy systems. But we need to move beyond this messaging paradigm into an information model paradigm for true semantic interoperability.

    --Tim

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/timothywaynecook
    tw_cook