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Rule no. 6: Architect a digital work environment.

The aim of a project based on an open model is to get people to collaborate on the same resource using digital technology. Whether it’s software, articles for Wikipedia, research for open science, hardware plans…

We’re going to have 2 elements: the central resource on which we’re working, the software itself for example, and all the metadata and exchanges that will be built around it, which are just as essential for building a resource.

Digital tools enable us to manage different temporalities, asynchronous or not, with timeless or more ephemeral information. For example, documentation associated with a resource will be maintained over time, while a quick discussion will not necessarily be preserved, but both must be possible.

Our uses and tools are evolving, being built up every day and will depend on the subject, the technical expertise of the people working on a project, etc.In the case of software, for example, Karl Fogel (2005) proposes a technical infrastructure for an open source software project:

Each of these tools will have its own utility and all will be complementary, pointing to and reinforcing each other. Versioning enables us to co-construct the software, the website enables us to present it to the general public and redirect users to the various tools, people can post their questions in the forum with answers that may be useful for others in the future, bug tracking enables us to centralize the management of software-related problems, and chat enables rapid exchanges between collaborators.

Let’s take the example of a chat and a forum, both of which can have similar usage for answering questions. The difference being that the forum will become much more timeless, and will make it easier to keep answers/exchanges.

We’re talking about software here, but the same logic applies to other types of resource. In the case of Wikipedia everything is grouped together on the site. Take an article page and look at the top tabs. There’s a discussion section on the article, a history of modifications and a tab for editing content. Wikipedians have their own profile and can chat together.

To follow an open model, we need to be able to shape the most appropriate digital environment possible to enable open collaboration between individuals.