Brandon Him

A Look at Your Next FOSS Project, or Maybe.

A Look at Your Next FOSS Project, or Maybe.

In today’s world, anyone who may be interested in making a difference in the world or has the urge to partake in something larger than themselves should look no further than FOSS (Free Open Source Softwares). The idea of Software might be a deterring factor for some, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the stereotypical programmer to contribute. Any FOSS project will be more than willing to take the extra hands with documentation, marketing, etc. Sounds great right?

Well not exactly.

You see, with the abundance of FOSS projects, it can be overwhelming when deciding on which project you want to be active in. No one likes the idea of contributing countless hours into a something, but to only be dropped in an instant. Thus, this blog post isn’t about why FOSS is so great, or why you should participate in the next biggest project, but it’s mainly to give you a rough analysis on two large FOSS projects, VuFind and Mifos.

Mifos - The Effective Financial Inclusion Solution

When looking into Mifos, I would say right off the bat their website is informative and professional. Thus, giving me no doubt that their definetly a level of credibility in the work they have done. Compared to other open source communities I’ve stumbled across, Mifos is very transparent with how anyone can get involved with their project. For example, they offer leadership roles such as a chapter of your own local community, or joining a global community to represent the interest of the entire community. So upfront it’s very open to participation.

On top of that they also provide their own set of fair share of collaboration tools that help facilitate the bonds of their community, these tools include a live chat room, mifos connect, community mailing. Educational resources and meeting resources are extremely important for a well-developed FOSS project, and scarce meetings can entail a project maybe in it’s dieing days. However, Mifos is very much alive. They carry out bi-weekly meetings for both developers and users, and this allows users to provide improvements and contributions to the product.

When looking commitment and development efforts, Mifos is no stranger in this area. They have over 1000 issues that have been resolved and implemented on Github. On top their development health, they offer a very extensive level of documentation covering over 100 pages filled with updated screenshots and relevant content. Installation seems almost painless, as it only includes a 2-3 page instructions with a step-by-step guide on implementing their software. This covers setting up the database to registering environment variables. I would definitely say that Mifos is a promising FOSS project to consider, if you are up for the task.

VuFind - Library Resource Portal

VuFind is an interesting project that may spark the inner librarian. First off, it’s clear that VuFind has a high level of credibility within the library community, as their project is maintained by the Villanova University Library. Having an academic partnership for a library based software adds an important value to the project, which is rare to find in many FOSS projects.

In terms of development, VuFind reveals a stable level of activity and the code is very well commented. This is a good thing for any newcomer developer who may want to start off with working at bugs and getting their foot wet. With over 40 contributors and an extensive commitment history, the fear of VuFind dropping from the face of the planet, is little to none. They also seem to have extensive networking, as they hold yearly international events for librarians and developers.

However, it’s a little more of a challenge for anyone to get involved with VuFind compared to Mifos. It doesn’t seem that they are looking for members for documentation or brand ambassadors. So that may deter some potential contributors, who can only offer that level of experience. But looking from a developers perspective, it’s much easier to participate as you can pick up certain task in the Jira task log. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t taking in extra hands, it might just require attending a few of the meetings and conferences to become more acquainted.

Looking at the documentation, it is extensive and informative. I would believe that anyone with a solid level of technical expertise could install and get started with VuFind. However, you will need some prior knowledge as their are terms such as arrays, routes, controllers, etc, that may prevent any non-technical people to be able to with VuFind and get it up and running. Luckily for myself, I have no need for any library software.

Therefore, I believe that VuFind is a project that may peak the interest of developers or librarians, but for someone looking to do more of the non-technical task, it may a bit of a challenge to put in some level of contribution.

Of course, I would say examine these projects for yourself and determine for yourself if you want to be involved in it. Every project will have their pros and cons, but you can’t really know for sure unless you give it a try. So don’t be afraid of the FOSS, and take a stab at doing something beneficial for the world.

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