When I logged into Elluminate for our third and final live presentation in the “Understanding and Using Social Software for GDLN” course I noticed that the installation process changed. They had also changed a couple of features. I noticed, for example, that the maximum number of simultaneous speakers went from 4 to 6. This reminded me of one of the handy aspects of using hosted software services — things can get better without you doing anything. You don’t even have do an “update” or an “install”.
Most of the software we discussed during this course is “hosted” and maintained by someone else. Another term for this is “Software as a Service” (SaaS). Widespread adoption of fast internet access has made SaaS products much more viable. Before software was installed on your local computer or, in larger installations, on a local area network. Now, a provider can offer an installed software application to tens of thousands of users at the same time.
We chose to focus on a specific set of SaaS applications because they are widely available, (the ones we chose anyway) are inexpensive, and they don’t require specialized technology skills to use. I’m a big fan of FOSS (free and open source software) but, in general, FOSS requires having access to technical skills — programmers, system administrators, designers. FOSS tools are sometimes offered in SaaS models but I don’t think we’ve talked about any tools that fall into this group.
All of this is to distinguish from the previous dominant software paradigm — COTS which stands for “commercial off-the-shelf” software. This is licensed, often “shrink-wrapped” software, you purchase. Microsoft has made its billions selling COTS software. Today we do well to look for SaaS and FOSS solutions before choosing a COTS or home-grown approach.
I was struck again, as I composed this post, by the importance of the jargon we use in this field. e.g., SaaS, FOSS, COTS… The jargon is useful and worth learning but makes life painful for people struggling to understand what is being said. Therefore, I’m really happy with the way the GDLNSS07 glossary is coming along. Many of the jargon terms we’ve been using are already included and defined along with some terms we haven’t even gotten to!