Community-driven open source: evolving software development

Kristen Ratan Feb 12, 2018

I’m showing my age here, but having observed the evolution of web development since it’s early days, it’s fascinating to look at how it’s become increasingly open to contributions from an ever-increasing set of participants. From the mid-90s when internet technologies were literally built in isolation in a garage through to the birth of user-centered design and agile, there has been steady growth in the attempts to bring the voices of those who will actually use the technology into the process.

Here we are now, well into the new millennium, and the results of this widening pool of contributors has mostly been good – better interfaces, applications that are easier to use, and the rise of quick and effective mobile apps and interfaces. In scholarly communications, though, our technology development processes have been largely stuck in about 2005. And the resulting platform technologies are unchanging, opaque, and expensive.

At Coko, we’re taking a community-first approach to developing the next generation of publishing technologies. The organizations who will adopt the platforms are helping to design, build, and test them from the beginning.  We’re bringing in partners, user groups, and other stakeholders early to shape the workflows, feature sets, and interfaces. Quite literally, the white board markers are in their hands. Not only is this resulting in better technologies, it’s a lot more fun. And the culture change needed to switch to a new platform is baked into the process. The participants own the product development process and the outcomes.

This process opens up opportunities for many tool-builders, designers, and developers to participate. As we roll out the platforms, new community members will participate alongside earlier adopters to manage the ongoing roadmap. Coko’s early partners include the University of California Press, the California Digital Library, eLife, Hindawi, and Caltech’s Wormbase. With this initial community, we’re rapidly building solutions for books, journals and micropublications. 

About the Author

Kristen Ratan

Co-founder, Coko Foundation

Kristen Ratan brings strategic leadership, business development and publishing expertise to the founding Coko team. She has a 20-year history of leading strategic innovations in the information industry.

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