Interview with Coko Advisor Tony Wasserman

Oct 15, 2018

Coko is enormously grateful to receive the support of a team of dedicated Advisors; including Tony Wasserman, Professor of Software Management Practice, Carnegie Mellon, Silicon Valley, and Executive Director, Center for Open Source Investigation.  We asked Tony for his thoughts on community-owned infrastructure.

Coko’s mission is to evolve how knowledge is created and shared through open source community-owned infrastructure. What resonates for you in this mission?

Coko is taking the next logical step in allowing people and organizations to create and share content. More than 500 years ago, Gutenberg started this process with the invention of the printing press, which allowed people to create and distribute printed content. The cost of doing so continually came down in price, enabled by the invention of photocopying machines and computer printers. The Web enabled anyone to create documents and publish them for mass consumption, with social media adding the ability to publicize these works. The work of the Coko Foundation allows traditional publishers to take advantage of these modern developments and produce complex documents much more efficiently than was previously possible.

What Open Source technology (from any industry) have you been most impressed by?

I am most impressed by advances in computer virtualization technology, with Kubernetes as the state of the art, allowing developers to work with a diverse set of computers and treat them as if they were a single machine

What advice would you have for risk-averse publishers who are hesitant to invest in Open Source infrastructure?

Look at the early success stories with the technology and talk with customers (and prospective customers) who have the flexibility to choose among multiple publishers. When the risk-averse publisher has lost out repeatedly to competitors offering open source technology, then they should know that the risk has been mitigated and that they should re-examine their decision. Otherwise, they will be like an airline continuing to rely on propeller-based aircraft once their competitors are buying and using jets.

In the broader context of ‘Open’ in Scholarly research and Communications, what is the place of ‘Open Source’?

If scholarly documents and computer programs are to be open, i.e., distributed with a Creative Commons or OSI-approved open source license, then the technology used to produce those open documents should itself be “open source”.

What would you like the landscape of research and scholarly communications to look like in 5 years?

It should be much easier and less expensive for scholars and members of the public to gain access to materials, particularly those published in scholarly journals. Given the current business models of those publishers, that vision seems unlikely to happen, though it is well worth the continuing effort to influence authors and publishers toward that vision.