Piwik winners at open source awards

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 10:00 08/11/2012

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Hundreds of people were due to celebrate the achievements of the open source software industry at its biennial awards in Wellington last night.

Technology awards can resemble a Hairy Maclary book, with lots of repetition as the same familiar names doing the same things crop up on every page.

But Don Christie, managing director of 150-person open source firm Catalyst IT, one of the award's top sponsors, said these had again attracted a healthy tally of about 100 entries.

Crown-owned institutes GNS and Niwa, and Catalyst itself, were well-represented in various guises among the 24 finalists in eight categories. GNS Science won the award for the best use of open source in Government for software that underpins the GeoNet website, which New Zealanders often turn to first to check the location and size of earthquakes.

But they were joined by some perhaps less familiar names, including "open source software project" category winner Piwik, whose creator and lead developer, Frenchman Matthieu Aubry, 27, moved to New Zealand two years ago with his Kiwi partner, whom he met on her "OE".

Piwik epitomises the youthful, international dimension to the open source movement that has some officials involved in economic development salivating over the potential of the sector.

The software tool, which has been translated into 46 languages, is now used by the owners of 416,000 websites as an alternative to the likes of Google Analytics, to help their owners analyse who has been visiting their pages "when, how and why".

It has a team of 12 contributors in six countries, two of whom make their main living from the tool by developing new features that are paid for by sponsors and by providing consulting.

People used Piwik as it gave them control and privacy over their data, Aubry said. "You don't send your data to any third party.

"We have big hopes for the future," he said. "We do everything through the internet so I can be anywhere in the world and New Zealand happens to be, I think, the best place in the world to be right now because it is politically safe and beautiful. I love it for the nature and people and spirit and the fact it is under-populated."

Open source software is free, usually on the condition users make any changes they make available to others.

Catalyst's Christie said it was disappointing that government procurement policies still seemed to be working against the adoption of open source.

"I don't think we are there yet in terms of the policy settings. There doesn't seem to be the overt recognition of its value that there has been in Britain and across Europe, which is pretty disappointing when you consider the potential returns."

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An opportunity existed for government agencies to use open source software to let staff safely use their own computers and smartphones on networks at work, but none appeared willing to fund the necessary prototypes, he said.

"That said, there is a lot more open source software being used in government and we are seeing the corporate sector moving on to ‘enterprise open source' ."

Sigurd Magnusson, business relationship manager of Wellington open source content management system vendor  Silverstripe, a former award-winner,  said the sector had matured.

"That doesn't mean every individual knows what open source means and is using it, but a lot of people have got over the concerns about using open source."

Those included the fear that they might find it hard to get commercial support or could be sued by companies that claimed a proprietary interest in such software.

"It is being treated a little more like any other software."

That didn't mean all the excitement had gone out of challenging proprietary, commercially-developed software, he said. Lots of people were fired up about getting traditional software such as desktop productivity software replaced by open source "although it is probably more likely that is just going to move on to 'the cloud'", he said.

Other award winners last night included corporate learning platform Totora Learning Management System and Manaiakalani  - a digital access programme in nine of Auckland's lowest decile schools. The "people's choice" award went to open source statistical and reporting platform Sofa Statistics.

- The Dominion Post

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