CSI Portland and Other Oregon Open Source Happenings

Jon Perr

Long-time readers of BlueOregon are by now accustomed to discussions of Oregon's high-profile role in the global open source technology industry. The open source ethos not only fits well with Oregon values of community, transparency and sustainability. Despite some bumps in the road, open source continues to be a bright spot in the Oregon tech industry landscape.

Last week, former OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen launched a new firm, the Collaborative Software Initiative (CSI). With the support of Intel, IBM, HP and others, CSI hopes to help large organizations in markets such as financial services slash the costs of software applications through collaborative development. Building on the emerging consortia or "community source" model of open source software development, end user institutions (private or public) jointly fund, resource and then deploy the applications they cooperate to build.

Meanwhile, Portland start-up Janrain has launched Jyte, a web service that allows users of blogs and social networking sites to make claims, build credibility and establish reputations among community members. Jyte is one of a number of services based on the OpenID standard providing users with single sign-on across a growing number of web sites. The company, led by former Oregon State University Open Source Lab (OSUOSL) honcho Scott Kveton, is generating a lot of buzz, including coverage in Business 2.0 and Red Herring.

Speaking of the OSUOSL, the Corvallis-based open source lab continues to extend its leadership role providing technology, hosting infrastructure and services to high-profile open source projects worldwide. (The Firefox web browser, the Apache web server, and the Linux kernel are among the many projects hosted by OSUOSL.) In March, the OSL announced the Open Health Information Project, partnering with the Mayo Clinic and vendors Palamida, CollabNet and Innoopract to provide open source solutions to health care providers. The OHIP announcement follows hot on the heels of a $500,000 grant by Real Networks (the company behind the Real media players and the open source Helix project) to the OSUOSL. The grant recognized the contributions of Oregon State students Michael Burns and Justin Gallardo to the One Laptop Per Child project, which hopes to help bridge the digital divide in developing countries by offering $100 notebook computers based on open source technologies.

On May 11 and 12, many of the leaders of the Oregon open source eco-system will gather for Bar Camp Portland. The event includes participants across technology, creative services, non-profits, public sector and community groups, and offers an ad hoc agenda of discussions, demonstrations and break-out sessions. Heading up the event organization are Dawn Foster, community manager for Compiere, and Raven Zachary, the Portland-based open source guru for market analyst firm The 451 Group.

In other Oregon open source happenings, this week's InnoTech conference will showcase many of the state's key technology players. And in Beaverton, the Open Technology Business Center (OTBC) continues to expand. The OTBC now includes 13 companies in residence, as well as providing its ongoing seminar series on venture fund raising, legal issues and other start-up essentials.

Of course, it hasn't been all smooth sailing for the open technology efforts in Oregon. Early Portland open source poster child Compiere relocated to Silicon Valley after receiving venture funding in 2006. The December merger of Beaverton-based OSDL and the Free Standards Group to form the Linux Foundation moved the new entity's center of gravity to the Bay Area. And Governor Kulongoski's Oregon Innovation Council (Oregon InC) ultimately did not include open technology in its 2006 recommendations for strategic state investment in economic development.

But those hiccups aside, Oregon remains "open" for business.

Disclaimer: I have done consulting work for some of the organizations described above.

UPDATE:  It is worth noting that Oregon state government and institutions continue to expand their evaluations of open source alternatives for more flexible, lower cost delivery of public services.  For example, the Department of Human Services announced it had selected open source CRM software to ensure the HIPAA compliance of over 30,000 health care providers.  OHSU will be piloting the open source Sakai collaborative learning application.  And in the House, Rep. Peter Buckley has proposed that Oregon join Texas, California, Minnesota and Massachusetts in voting to mandate the Open Document Format for state agencies and public libraries.

  • pedro (unverified)

    wow, i just checked out janrain, and their openid service--how awesome is that? i guess i haven't been paying enough attention recently, i thought openid had a ways to go...

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    I think it's important that Oregon's "open source mecca" status be embraced not just by geeks, but by all progressives who care about he future of the state. Beyond from the famous "spirit of collaboration" associated with open source development, the movement as a whole represents an aggressive exercise of first amendment rights: the ability to speak, create, share, collaborate, congregate.

    There are two excellent opportunities for non-techy types to get a feel for the "open source" ethos: editing Wikipedia and volunteering at Portland's Free Geek (soon to have an offshoot, I believe, in Corvallis.)

    Lots of you have probably looked at Wikipedia articles, and maybe had mixed reactions to what you saw. Some of you have probably edited a page or two. You don't have to be an expert on a subject, or on web coding, to contribute; even if you make a mistake, it's no big deal, somebody will nudge you in the right direction, or just fix your mistake.

    The real fun starts when you create an account, which opens up the possibility of collaborating in a meaningful way with other editors. Have you ever been frustrated by the information, say, on ballot measures or historic politicians on the state's official web site? Go make a better version on Wikipedia - you'll find you're not alone!

    There are probably 5 or 6 of us very actively contributing to Oregon-related pages, and numerous others who drop by from time to time. Come join us - the more the merrier!

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    The trouble with open source has always been that it was a great idea but only accessible to TrueGeeks. With the recent rise of Ubuntu we have the start of a toehold, but a lot of us will remain Microsoft slaves until it is all seamless.

    For us members of The Great Unwashed, it all starts with a killer OS.

    That said, I'm a big fan of FreeGeek's efforts re recycling, repurposing, discounting, and charity.

  • pedro (unverified)

    huh? only open to true geeks?? i wonder, what browser do you use--firefox, maybe?

    i wonder if perhaps your favorite websites run on apache, perhaps augmented by perl, ruby, or php on top of linux? i wonder if they use sendmail as their mail server?

    anyway, you get the point :)

  • Greg Collver (unverified)

    I'd just like to point out that the Oregon Department of Education has also partnered with the OSU-OSL to create the Oregon Virtual School District. This is a great step in the right direction for Oregon's K-12 school system!

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