The optimal search experience is faceted and could also involve open source. Faceted search is found in intranets and enterprise search applications, as well as other content-heavy sites. However, this takes a budget with enough power to sustain search applications to take you the whole journey.

Is open source another worthy option to consider? A better option? Working together in teams that can cross boundaries, both geographical and metaphorical, provides a chance to bring together the best talent in one area to solve a specific technical puzzle.

Open source software can be easier on the budget, though faceted search is fueled by taxonomy and metadata. Many are considering a hybrid approach to create the necessary information structures the search will require.

Open source software is made by many organizations and individuals, and distributed under an OSD-compliant license which grants all the rights to use, study, change and share the software in modified and unmodified form. Software freedom is essential to enabling community development of open source software.

Open source software is typically developed in a decentralized and collaborative way, relying on peer review and community production. Open source software is often cheaper, more flexible and has more longevity than its proprietary peers because it is developed by communities rather than a single author or company.

Open source is not new. In the 1950s and 1960s researchers developing early internet technologies and telecommunication network protocols relied on an open and collaborative research environment. The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), which would later become the foundation for the modern internet, encouraged peer review and an open feedback process. User groups shared and built upon one another’s source code. By the time of the birth of the internet in the early 1990s, the values of collaboration, peer review, communication, and openness were written into its foundations.

While cost is a key advantage, open source offers other benefits as well. Its quality can be easily and greatly improved when its source code is passed around, tested and fixed. It also offers a valuable learning opportunity for programmers. They can apply skills to the most popular programs available today. Since it is in the public domain, and constantly subject to updates, there is little chance it can become unavailable or quickly outmoded—an important plus for long-term projects.

Similar to open source, open science is the movement to make scientific research and data accessible to all. This includes amateurs and professionals. There is something to be said for collaboration and a place where researchers resolve their problems in concert with each other.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.