Open Source Research

I mentioned in my last post that I took a break from writing to look at the academic/research software on the apple website. I opened a bunch of tabs (I'm looking for qualitative data analysis tools and the like,) and I found a few things that were pretty interesting, opened some tabs on the promise that I'd get back to evaluate these pieces of software.

I did.

My response?


Here's the issue: this is a pretty small market there are maybe a dozen programs that are designed to help social scientists with the things that they do. And they all perform very different tasks. Some will run cognitive psych experiments, there are statistics packages, there are data mining tools. You get the idea. There isn't a lot of competition.

So the end result, is that these places charge hundreds of dollars for a piece of software that is old, out of date, [1] and for the most part very proprietary.

So there's really nothing to be done. This isn't software that I really need at the moment, so I'm not buying anything, but it's really frustrating that not only are there not better options, but that there are no open source options. While I'm a big proponent of Open Software, there are a lot of cases where I'm not sure that it's entirely necessary. Or, at least in cases where there's enough competition to support a number of viable options.

He said, looking at his list of running applications and realized that indeed, most of them were open source applications.

So maybe, then, open source is the way to spur development in areas too small for proprietary models to really work--such as they do. In any case, I do think that there's a big difference between big open source projects like Linux or Mozillia and smaller projects like R-Project. Maybe it's just me but I think that having free/open software options for research is more crucial than having free/open operating systems. I'm so going to get filleted for that one, I understand that you can't have the former without the later, but we can have this fight later, if people really want to have it. The short story is niche/not obviously profitable products/projects need to be open source (like server operating systems, like research software), and if apple is any indication user-level operating systems don't.

Ok, Done ranting.

And then I did some more serious googling. This, program, TAMS Analyzer for OS X came up, it's GPL-ed and I'm going to spend some time playing with it to see what I can make it do. But it's awesome looking. I'm putting tinkering wit this on the todo list.

[1]So, I draw the distinction between old and out of date because its important. Some of these programs aren't that old, but they're coded in a paradigm that is, or they hard wire assumptions in a way that I think is probably not ideal. It feels like computing circa 1988-1992, even if the code has been ported to OS X.
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