RSS Aids Open-Source Effort

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-07-11 Print this article Print

Sourcelabs' community-based project catalog to serve as Wiki.

Sourcelabs Inc., a service provider for open-source software, has announced a new community-based catalog of open-source projects that also serves as a wiki and features RSS technology.

Seattle-based SourceLabs introduced Swik as a service to the open-source community, said Brad Silverberg, founding partner at Bellevue, Wash., venture capital firm Ignition—which has invested in SourceLabs—and a SourceLabs board member.

"Its primarily for developers and end users to find out about all the different open-source projects," Silverberg said. "There are a couple of things that are unique about it. First of all, its a wiki, so that anyone can edit, restructure or add comments—so it evolves dynamically as users use Swik."

In addition, the catalog was built using RSS technology, which means that if "you enter a project thats not already in its database, it goes out, and it automatically searches and builds information or an entry for that database from existing syndication feeds and populates that database," Silverberg said.

"Its actually very cool. When you enter a project that it didnt already know about, itll go out and search it and fill it in with a lot of the relevant information," he said. "And then if theres stuff you want to add to it, you can add to it yourself. And so it evolves dynamically as people use it, and its a nice community resource. It ensures that its always comprehensive, its always useful and its always up-to-date."

Alex Bosworth, a member of the SourceLabs development team, developed the catalog. Bosworth is the son of Adam Bosworth, a software guru who is vice president of engineering at Google Inc. and has held key development roles at BEA Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., Borland Software Corp. and other companies.

"When Alex gave me a demo a couple of months ago, I was really blown away," Silverberg said. "Its one of those pieces of software that once a year you see something that just knocks your socks off the way it automatically evolves. It develops itself."

"When he first showed it to me a couple of months ago, the database was still pretty sparse, so we sat there and entered some project names, and Swik started to fill itself out automatically. And then you can, as a user, subscribe to it," he said.

Indeed, users can subscribe to new projects and news through any RSS feed reader, such as Ask Jeeves Inc.s Bloglines, Ranchero Softwares NetNewsWire or live bookmarks from The Mozilla Foundations Firefox, according to SourceLabs.

"We realized that by building Swik, we could make it significantly easier for users to find, select and use open-source projects," SourceLabs CEO Byron Sebastian said.

"Participating in the open-source community in this way helps SourceLabs core support business by increasing awareness of SourceLabs and also by increasing overall user participation in the open-source community. The more widely used open source is, the more successful SourceLabs is," Sebastian said.

Swik, which was code-named SourceCaster, applies content according to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license so that it may be reused and repurposed in any way that users desire, Sebastian said.

Swik features
  • Swik has wiki capabilities and is based on RSS technology
  • Swik is open, with no special moderators or approval steps that censor what users post
  • To facilitate sharing and communication, users can tag information to highlight important material and help establish its relevance to the overall community
  • Users can subscribe to new projects and news through any RSS feed reader, such as Bloglines, NetNewsWire or Firefoxs live bookmarks
  • Content is provided per the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license so that it may be reused and repurposed in any way that users desire
    Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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