Proposal aims to improve EU software repository system

Adding more metadata should make European open-source projects easier to find and reuse

The European Commission wants to improve its free and open-source software repository system using an enhanced metadata specification meant to help E.U. countries exchange more information about their free and open-source software projects.

European public administrations are encouraged to share and reuse free and open software through a federation of software collaboration platforms aimed at increasing visibility of open-source projects available in European countries. The Commission's Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations (ISA) Programme was established to support that effort and gave a presentation last week on how to improve use of the repositories, which are called "forges."

The ISA plans to improve how national open-source repositories are linked, the organization said on Joinup, the Commission portal for reuse of open-source software. Currently, there is information about software projects available on Joinup, but only three elements are listed: name, description and URL.

The ISA proposal for the forges relies on the ADMS.F/OSS metadata specification, which the ISA said would allow the exchange of more information about free and open-source software projects among E.U. countries. The goal is to share more metadata from available open-source projects to make them more searchable, enhance visibility and stimulate the reuse of the software.

One of the current problems is that some open-source projects get "dumped in a forge" after they are finished and are rarely used after that, said Sander van der Waal, service manager at OSS Watch, who collaborated on the development of ADMS.F/OSS. Other governments or organizations might want to use the software but aren't aware of its existence, which is why a system of federated forges that exchange metadata about their projects could be useful, he added.

The plan is to eventually automatically incorporate the version of the software release, related software and the geographic region in which the software can be used among other parameters, according to the presentation documents.

This could be useful for governments, Van der Waal said. Open-source government software developed in France, for instance, might also be useful for the Italian government, he added. By listing all the metadata and making that data searchable, governments should be able to find software they might want to use and by doing that, they won't have to reinvent the wheel, he said.

"It is not one big forge to rule them all," Van der Waal said of the plan, adding that only the metadata will be exchanged between the forges, the rest of the data, including the code, will remain stored locally in the different forges.

Not only governments can use the federated forges -- businesses and other organizations can also list their open-source projects, said Van der Waal.

The project was started in January and is still in its early days, said Van der Waal, adding that it could use more momentum.

The ISA encouraged governments and organizations during last week's webinar to join the federation by mapping their repository's internal data model to ADMS.F/OSS, developing an export tool and transporting their metadata to the federation. That process would take about 17 days, ISA estimated. The local repositories are encouraged to frequently file updated metadata to the central repository.

Participants will be able to discuss the ADMS.F/OSS specification in a forum on Joinup, and the specification will be finalized in June, according to the published meeting minutes. The first implementation wave is planned to take place in July.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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