Tuesday 17 May 2016

The BBC should open source most (if not all) of its developed technology

Following on the Recipe for disaster post on the topic of BBC to close recipes website as part of £15m savings, I wanted to put down this idea, which in my view, goes to the heart of the value that public entities (like the BBC, but also the NHS, public services, Non-profit orgs, charities, etc... ) should provide to society:

The BBC should open source most (if not all) of its developed technology 

The BBC hires a large number of software/application teams (from Devs, to QA, to Designers, to Architects), which create a large body of code, that is in most cases behind closed doors and not available to the general public (namely other public or private organisations that would benefit from that code)

Of course that given its technological pedigree, the BBC is active on the Open Source space (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/opensource/, http://www.bbc.co.uk/opensource/projects/index, https://github.com/bbc, https://twitter.com/BBCOpenSource), but that is nowhere close to what exists in-house.

In addition to improving the collaboration inside the BBC (it is easier to teams to collaborate 'externally' via GitHub, than it is internally), the contribution and impact to society would be tremendous.

After all, we (the public) are paying for that work, so why don't we have access to it?

I (as a programmer, or entrepreneur) should be able to use BBC created technology, and I don't see any commercial reason why that shouldn't be allowed.

The same way that the BBC celebrates when it is able to improve the quality of the UK 'conversation' about a particular topic, it should also be proud when ideas and technologies originally developed and published by the BBC, gain new heights and are used to by somebody outside the BBC to create amazing things.

I'm old enough to remember when Open Source was branded as 'Communist' in conversations about software development (including Security). This always had the effect to kill the conversion since it played into the FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) of the 'communist/socialist' era and the idea that Open Source is a really bad idea.

Of course that Open Source is not a bad idea, and today in 2016, we have case-study after case-study of great examples of amazing technology and services created using Open Source code. Btw, Creative Commons was an evolution of Open Source licences (for non-software 'stuff')

The idea is very simple, what we need is for the BBC board to pass a motion that just says:

"From now on, as long as it is logistically and contractually possible, all BBC generated code and web content should be released under an Open Source or Creative Commons licence'

That would have impact on the UK's economy and the maturity of the UK's technologic sector

And if the BBC is NOT able to make this decision in the short term, the least it should do is to release under an open license the code and content for the services that is going to close down.

For more on this topic, see: