Why we use Open Source

Robert Brook

Believe it or not, we have had people asking.

The Hansard Prototype project is, for the most part, open source. The source data – the XML files – are available under Parliamentary Copyright; the application code is available under an open licence. So, with some work on your part, you really can download the data and the code – and run your own Hansard Prototype.

We chose to use open source for quite a few reasons:

  • No initial cost. Yes, we do know about total cost of ownership.
  • No licensing issues. We don’t have to buy licences to run the code, nor are we compelled to place our own code under a restricted licence.
  • Accessible documentation, support and a large shared community – for the code we’ve chosen to use, at least. There are flourishing user groups, discussion groups on the web – and most of our code problems are a Google query away from a solution, or at least someone else working on the same issue.
  • We get to ‘view source’. We can see the insides of whatever we’re using – and, if we really feel like it, we can roll up our sleeves and make alterations or fixes ourselves.
  • Proof of value: we know exactly what we’re getting. We don’t rely on anyone pitching to us.
  • Openness and transparency: we’re publicly funded. You know what you’re paying for.
  • Speed of access: if we want to, we can risk running a development version of the code.
  • We have some freedom of movement: we can swap out databases, search engines, servers. No, this isn’t unique to open source, but we find it easier.
  • The code we write is more portable: from the server right up to the developer.
  • We want to be as transparent as we can be: open source helps up get there.
  • The cost of addressing issues is usually small: we’re part of the wide community of users of open source. There are ‘many eyes’ on each issue.

Posted in: Open Source, Find Your MP, Historic Hansard


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