Why FEDORA? Answers to the FEDORA Users Interview Survey

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The Fedora Outreach and Communications team is conducting a survey of the high-level sense of passion and commitment inherent in the Fedora community. I've posted some answers back to the FEDORA wiki on behalf of OhioLINK, and am also including the responses here as it fits into the "Why FEDORA?" series of blog postings. (If you are reading this through a RSS news reader, I think you'll have to actually come to the DLTJ website and scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the table of contents of the series.) On with the responses!

How did you hear about Fedora?

I first remember hearing about FEDORA at a Coalition for Networked Information meeting in 2003. I only really remember it in passing because what was being presented was so radical that I didn't appreciate what was being described.

I next encountered FEDORA during a conference call with the Internet2 Shibboleth core developers in mid-2004. The topic was enabling cross-repository access management -- a topic that is still a challenge today (although the Shibboleth team is working on it). But that time I really started to catch on with what the FEDORA team was doing, and started paying closer attention.

Why did you chose Fedora?

When I arrived as project manager to the Ohio Digital Resource Commons (DRC) project in January 2005, OhioLINK was on the path to expand their existing Documentum installation to include a hosted institutional repository service. The Ohio DRC Steering Committee reviewed and accepted a proposal to use FEDORA as the foundation of this new hosted institutional repository service primarily because OhioLINK would be working with peers to develop the service (rather than working in isolation as likely would have happened with a Documentum-based solution).

Were there economic advantages to your project/org. in selecting Fedora?

The open source, free-to-license nature of FEDORA was definitely an advantage. It allowed us to turn grant funding that would have been used to pay for additional Documentum modules and licenses into to salary for temporary-hire programmers. In that way we felt that we had a better control over our destiny by creating the application code ourselves rather than relying on consultants.

What is Fedora's unique role in your production system?

OhioLINK is beginning to look at the Service Oriented Architecture (SOAs) software design paradigm, and FEDORA fits right into that model as the content repository for all of our digital objects. If anything, FEDORA's nature as a best-of-breed content repository -- and nothing else -- encourages us to think along the likes of sooner than we might otherwise have done.

Is there one specific Fedora attribute that enables your project/organization to accomplish your overall goals.

The fact that FEDORA is completely agnostic to what is contained in a datastream -- be it audio, video, image, dataset, PDF, Dublin Core, MODS, EAD, FGDC, TEI, etc. -- means that we can truly pursue a goal of managing all of our content in one place. The robustness of the content repository functions allows us to consider more interesting questions such as how this different content is ultimately presented to the end user.

Do you see yourself as an active member of the Fedora community? Why?

Yes. FEDORA represents the ability to take long-term control over the destiny of our digital objects. If, for some reason, the existing core developers at Cornell and UVa disappeared, a vibrant user community (OhioLINK included) can pick up the task of maintaining the software for the collective good. And if no one but OhioLINK is left in a "FEDORA community" our job of migrating out of it, should we desire to do so, is eased by the fact that we have the full view of the source code to help us move content and services to a new platform.

What would inspire you to become more involved?

It would take the existence of more hours in the day, I'm afraid!

What should be the mission of an ongoing Fedora organization?

A FEDORA community should first and foremost inspire communication among users of the FEDORA software. Almost all of us are working with extremely limited resources, and it weakens our collective effort if there is duplicated work underway. This communication should include not only developers but also users of the software.