I have to admit that at one point I had somewhat of a downer on software developers. I felt that there was a tendency for many in the development community to be driven by ideology rather than than supporting user-needs. I encountered this amongst the Web community where there was a tendency to be dismissive of software which wasn’t open source, even if it would provide benefits to the users. And similarly open source software was often given an uncritical support, even if it was difficult for typical users to use.
In many respects things have progressed. Open source software is now being evaluated alongside proprietary solutions and the failings of poor quality open source software will be acknowledged. And many developers will themselves make use of proprietary software if it provides benefits over closed solutions – look at the popularity of the iPhone, Skype, etc. for example.
I now feel that we should acknowledge the ways in which software developers are making today’s Web environment, in particular, a much richer and easy-to-use environment. But there are still ideological positions which are being held – in particular the view that light-weight development is to be preferred to ‘enterprise’ solutions and that tangible user benefits can be delivered quickly without the need for large-scale budgets.
The good news is that such views are being supported by the JISC in its Grant Funding Call 03/09: Rapid Innovation Grants. Under this call funding is available for technical rapid innovation projects, lasting up to 6 months. Grants of £15,000 to £40,000 are available for individual projects. The call states, for example, that “Any outputs (prototypes, services and/or code) should strive to maintain a lightweight architecture. Using, for example, ReST, XML over HTTP, Cool URIs, JSON, etc, other machine interfaces such as SOAP will need to be justified in terms of their ease in reuse“.
At a time of an economic recession I am pleased that the JISc is encouraged such initiatives. We still need to recognise, however, that not everthing can be solved in this fashion – there will still be a need for heavy-weight enterprise solutions in certain areas. But I do wonder whether those who many be critical of small levels of funding for IT development work may be those who have vested interests in maintaining power bases and hoping that large-scale investment in funding will tide them over until the econonmy recovers. But am I just being paranoid about this?