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Three-part Development Focus for Fall 2008

By Dan Davis Fedora 3.0 was released at the end of July closely followed by a maintenance update of Fedora 2.2.3. Our next efforts focus on three fronts: (1) improving Fedora Common’s software, (2) dramatically increasing support for light-weight Web applications and (3) building an open source software development community. Not surprisingly all three of these fronts provide opportunities for cross fertilization. We deeply appreciate all the feedback we have gotten from the Fedora 3.0 early adopters and we are working diligently to turn the feedback into improvements to the software. Behind a significant amount of the feedback we have heard a consistent desire to reduce complexity and to support rapid development of Web applications while providing durable access to the content. We also understand that our developers cannot do it all so it is time to form an open source software development community much like those that have been successful in recent years.
We have a number of improvements planned for the Fedora Repository software. Near term tasks are summarized in the Punchlist (follow the link from the new FC Developers Forum). Details may be found in the trackers in the Fedora Commons project on Sourceforge. Please remember to visit Topaz and Mulgara too. Topaz released version 0.9 on Sep 1. Mulgara has been releasing at a harrowing rate about every two weeks with support now for Sparql and a number of performance improvements. The Akubra project for development of a storage layer subsystem has moved to the top of the list for action. All these resources include living documents which change as the developers and the community better understand the requirements and the technology plus free software downloads.
Many members of the community have expressed the importance of making it easier to use Fedora Commons software. While we will always support the needs of enterprise systems too, we have challenged ourselves to improve support for the rapid development of applications within the Web architecture. Matt Zumwalt, Media Shelf, has been a passionate advocate for simplicity and, with his team, has contributed the experimental REST API and is working a Ruby interface. Ben O’Steen, Oxford University Research Archive (ORA), and others have helped frame the arguments for simpler access and improved usability. The Fedora Repository architecture has the potential to be a powerful mash-up engine. It can add value to applications by providing a spanning layer that helps make access to content uniform and durable for diverse storage systems and other kinds of content suppliers. We are looking for collaborators in doing this well.
Fedora Commons must become a more open – open-source software development community. We are still taking baby steps but we already have a Sourceforge presence and have started incorporating code contributions from the community. We now have a published licensing policy in place and an initial technology roadmap. But it is time to take it up a notch. First, we have begun exploring how to collaborate with the extensive and capable DSpace community; we share a common mission and there is enormous opportunity to share common technology. Second, we have launched the new Fedora Commons Wiki. Inside it you will find the Fedora Repository documentation and the Developers Forum plus many other resources. Please expect growing pains, but we will do our best to provide a constant flow of new and updated materials. Better yet, sign up for an account – you can comment on pages, add news and your own contributions to further the Fedora Commons mission.