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Open Development of a Fuzzy Client

Andrew Nicolson

This paper describes a project looking at new modes of software engineering in a context where mainstream development methods are hard to apply. An umbrella group of loosely affiliated community organisations across the British Isles seeks a new generation of Internet-enabled cross-platform application software, to be developed collaboratively with open source code.

The user groups are LETS - Local Exchange (/Economy/Employment/Energy) Trading Schemes (/Systems) - local clubs that use invented local currency to enable and encourage people to trade services and goods, listed in a directory. Manchester Bobbins and Brighton Rocks are examples of LETS currency, which changes hands as cheques. No interest is charged or earned, and each member's balance and turnover is made known to all.

The software process breaks accepted professional practices. There is no single agreed goal or set of requirements, no budget or agreed timescale, no signing-off entity. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether the application is to be client-server or a more novel peer-to-peer solution. Distinctions between user, system administrator and developer are blurred, and the identity of the team is fuzzy.

A desire for high quality remains, with a will to learn from mainstream software engineering and I.T~Rs more reflective practitioners and from such contemporary developments as Extreme Programming and the Open Source community. The paper presents a snapshot of this ongoing project, inviting feedback and debate.

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