The open source offering: free to use, easy to change

Open source is about sharing software, the software is free to use. In itself this is a very powerful offering, but open source also allows you to repurpose and change the software to suit your needs, often referred to as ‘reusability’. In theory, this gives you the freedom to integrate the software with your own systems in any way you like, or change it in small or large ways to satisfy your requirements.

Making software that is free to use is relatively easy—just add a license to the code. Making the software easy to change is far more challenging, and requires a different mindset and investment in development. Rarely does a piece of technology do all of the functions out of the box that a complex organization needs, so building in order to change and evolve is a crucial requirement of modern platforms.

Building for change

At Coko, we’ve prioritized making our software easy to change in addition to free to use. This is particularly important in the publishing sector where technical resources are scant. The Coko PubSweet framework is a modular set of building blocks to create custom platforms. The interoperable components can be assembled to meet the needs of different content types, organizational workflows, and integrations. In addition, we built the software to require as little developer time as possible to make the changes you need. An example is creating easy-to-implement theming, which allows users to create a completely new look and feel to interfaces with minimal effort.

Coko’s Editoria books platform and the xPub journals platform have been built to be easily adapted and changed. To accomplish that work, publishers can participate in the Coko community and make the case that the software needs changing. That is a reasonable path and I’ll cover that a little below. If you are in the lucky position to have a technical team with development skills, then they could make the changes for you. Or, you could hire the necessary developers or outsource to make the changes for you.

Whichever route you choose, you will benefit from the fact that we are building software to minimize the need to use your own (potentially limited) resources, should you wish to adapt or change the software. That is, our software is easy to change. Good open source is both free to use and easy to change, and we build for both for all of the Coko technologies.

Open source for non-technical organizations

What if you don’t have technical resources or the ability to hire someone? Most would assume you are out of options. You are relegated to being a ‘downstream consumer’, accepting what you are given. Not so with Coko—we build with a community-first product development methodology. We actively seek out those with interest in technologies like Editoria and xPub, and we facilitate discussions about what the software should do. That means you can have a voice in the discussions and affect the outcomes even if you have no technical resources. And, community being what it is, the more you put into the community process, the more you will be heard. Importantly, this does not have to be a technical contribution. Example of non-technical contributions to the community include giving input into features and use cases, testing, organizing events, talking about Coko at conferences, or hosting workshops and meet-ups.

Community built and owned

Our community is populated by smart people from many organizations who are working to create a stunning array of Coko-powered technology – everything from micropublication platforms, book and journal workflow platforms, to content aggregation services and more. All these community members work with reuse in mind because we have carefully cultivated this expectation. Each of these organizations is not just reusing parts that other community members have built, but also adding their own features to the software in a way that can be easily reused by others. As a result, there is a fast-growing constellation of reusable open source pieces of technology that are solving all kinds of interesting publishing problems.

Community requires communication to work: members sharing ideas, listening to the needs of others, combining resources, and generally collaborating to improve the collective technology. Community members are solving real world needs and have an immense knowledge base about publishing. By joining the Coko community, you would have the opportunity to both teach and learn, improving your skills and knowledge, and helping others improve theirs.

Coko’s open source offering is not just about liberal licenses or being free to use. We focus on building for reuse and cultivating community. We put a lot of time into helping each community member understand our culture, building with reuse in mind, contributing back, and sharing what they learn.

About the Author

Adam Hyde

Co-founder of Coko.