A first draft of a metadata standard to help describe and to classify free and open-source software in a machine-readable way, is to be published at the end of this month. The specification is being developed by a group of government specialists and software developers involved in electronic government services around the EU.
The spec should boost the re-use of software, by making it easier to find. That will remove another barrier for re-use of open source. Generally, open source developers spend little effort to promote their work or to make their projects visible.
The upcoming standard has the acronym 'ADMS.F/OSS', which stands for 'Asset Description Metadata Schema for Software'. The work is initiated by the EC's Joinup project, which organises a series of online meetings. Joinup is the European Commission's website for collaboration on open source software, semantic assets and other interoperability tools.
"We are defining neutral concepts to describe relevant components of free and open source software", introduces Stijn Goedertier, a consultant involved in organising the working group. "It should become a set of concepts that all those involved agree on."
Introducing their project on the Joinup web page, the group writes that the specification aims to "maximally reuse existing specifications, such as DOAP, ADMS, and the Trove software map".
Across the Internet
Using open source helps to achieve interoperability. Seen in this way, it is not much different from an open protocol or an open data model, Goedertier says. "So, to get started with the classification, we expect to first reuse our ADMS specification. It covers all kinds of interoperability assets."
Next, the group is studying DOAP, a specification describing open source software projects and repositories. DOAP does not offer taxonomies for classifying software, and so for this the group is taking inspiration from the Trove software map, developed at SourceForge.
The group hopes ADMS.F/OSS will be used everywhere to describe open source assets. Goedertier: "It should make the description of software machine-readable. That will make it easier to find software on the Internet, no matter in which repository or catalogues it is kept."
One of the first users of the specification will be the European Commission's ISA programme (Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations). ISA wants to make it easier to access the twelve software forges hosted by EU public administrations that it federates within Joinup. Other potential users will be government software developers involved in these and other forges. "This standard will be useful for others, beyond the European Union, our working group is open to all interested experts."
Goedertier: "There are hundreds of projects available at Joinup's federated forges. Unfortunately, all that users know about these projects comes from the name, a minute description and a url. The new standard will help extract more information, improving finding useful applications."
Asset Description Metadata Schema for Software