Reactions to my open source risk article

Testing out Xerxes with a vanity search, I happened to find there were a couple letters to the editor about my last Library Journal article. Nice, proves someone read it, thanks letter writers! (And proves this meta-search stuff really does work! I just entered it in the default ‘general’ search local librarians have chosen of a few databases with good scope. No need to figure out what database to search!)

Oddly, while the article itself is online for free, the subsequent letters to the editor are not. Oh well.

And sadly, doesn’t give me any way to give you a COinS, but I can give you a DIY context object, some of you will know what to do with it to get pain free full text from your institutional link resolver:


Others will have to look it up manually if they want to see the letters:

Library Journal 2/15/2009, Vol. 134 Issue 3, p10-10

The first letter,  by Keith Smith, makes the point that open source does not always equal unsupported, or more poorly supported than proprietary. But also that open source software isn’t necessarily ‘free’. I agree entirely, and one of the goals of my article was to make that very point. I hope that most readers didn’t miss  one of the main arguments of the essay!

The second letter, by Philip Hendrickson argues that open source software is “greater risk for greater reward.”  I actually don’t agree with him there, in that I think that open source software can emcompass a range of risks, some of which are no greater than with the best proprietary software. That too was one of the main arguments of my article, in fact. Depending on the particular piece of software and context, the risk and reward can be all over the map.  In some situations, you can choose to take greater risk for greater reward, certainly.  Of course, we’re always trying to get the best risk-to-reward ratio, and sometimes you can have low risk and high reward (yes even with open source, occasionally).  But certainly sometimes taking a greater risk for a greater reward is called for, basically the last main argument of the article.

Philip also makes the point that, with open source:

One’s needs analysis must be more thorough, because a vendor will not be determining your needs on your behalf. This is a challenge for librarians who are used to a vendor leading them by the hand to a new system.

Now, that’s true in a sense (if we’re not talking about vendor-supported open source). But I think relying on vendor’s leading us by the hand to identifying our needs is a large part of what got us in the pickle we’re in.  Whether using open source or proprietary software or both, libraries have got to start taking responsibility for charting their own futures.

Thanks to Philip and Keith for their responses.

(My vanity search also showed a letter to the editor I wrote a couple years ago to Tikkun. Ain’t the internet grand.)


5 thoughts on “Reactions to my open source risk article

  1. Jonathan, are you unable to put a COinS in by hand with I have my own WP site (LISHost hosted) and that’s what I have to do.

    I use Zotero to export the citation as HTML & then grab the HTML from the source and drop it in the code view in WP. You could, of course, write the span by hand. In some cases it might be easier.

    It is an extreme pain, honestly, but it works.

    I can understand if you are unwilling to go to all of that work; it is insane. But I guess I’m wondering if it is more you truly are not allowed by to include COinS or if it is a workflow/tool use/better use of your time issue.


  2. The hosted wordpress is set to not allow/escape the particular HTML tags involved in COinS. Or at least was last time I tried. I know if you have your own wordpress you can easily change this.

  3. Inside angle brackets you want something like this:
    span class=”Z3988″ title=”?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&rft.genre=article&rft.issn=03630277&″

    (escaped in my attempt above…)

  4. I can not install plug-ins on this hosted blog, and last time I tried it was set to remove title attributes from spans.

    If you have your own wordpress install, there are a variety of solutions.

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