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Ask Slashdot: How To Share a SharePoint Site? 151

Posted by timothy
from the how-much-wood-would-a-woodchuck-chuck dept.
New submitter grzzld writes "I am a systems analyst for a County in New York. Last year I made a SharePoint site that manages grants and it was well received. So much so that it won a NACo award. Since then, there have been several requests from other municipalities from around the country who would like to get this SharePoint site. The county is trying to figure out how to protect ourselves from people making money from it and having people hold us liable if it they use it and something goes awry. I am afraid that ultimately nothing will be done and the site will not be shared since at the end of the day it is much easier to not do anything and just say no. I proposed that we license it under an Open Source agreement but I am not versed enough in the differences between all of them. It is also unclear to me if I could do this since the nature of the 'program' is a SharePoint site. It seemed like CodePlex would be a good place to put this since it is Microsoft centric and it an open source initiative. I just want to contribute my work to others who may find it useful. The county just wants to make sure they can't be held liable and have somebody turn my work around and make a buck. How can I release this to the world and make sure the county's concerns are addressed?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Share a SharePoint Site?

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  • by abiggerhammer (753022) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @01:00PM (#39735467)
    The GPL variants and the BSD licenses all contain a disclaimer of warranty (the part that reads "THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED ``AS IS'' AND WITHOUT ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE" or similar), which addresses the county's concerns. By releasing code under a license with such a disclaimer, you are asserting that no one can sue you if the code breaks, even if your code breaking caused them some kind of loss.
    • Public Domain (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      FYI, if I remember right all works by a public employee while employed are to be in the public domain. This is at least true for federal workers.

    • by mounthood (993037)

      Using a bog-standard BSD/GPL license addresses liability, it just doesn't fix the fear of managers and lawyers inexperienced with releasing software. The poster could try writing a short email linking Google licenses, the FSF, the EFF and others.

      The real problem will be support: I can't fix a SharePoint package if it doesn't install right, so you have to release all the code, and if you want it to succeed, you'll also need to write documentation and answer email/forum questions. Does your employer want you

      • by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Friday April 20, 2012 @12:30AM (#39742453)

        I have a similar issue working in publicly funded healthcare. Some things I've created (I own the IP but don't really care that much one way or another) my hospital has difficulties commercializing for several reasons but biggest being liablity. Even if our license says we aren't responsible if another hospital has their operations impacted we will be expected to help out since it is all the governments money. Does the hospital I work for want to get $500 and then be liable for God knows how much of my time spent debugging crap if things goes wrong? Millions of dollars in internal projects get wasted each year because of fear of liability so each hospital ends up doing the same thing on their own and not willing to share. Silly.

    • The county just wants to make sure they can't be held liable and have somebody turn my work around and make a buck.

      who cares if somebody makes a buck? this sounds like sour grapes on the part of the county. They're in no position to monitize it (they shouldn't be anyway, or else they're wasting taxpayer money on business ventures?). Let somebody else make some dough.

    • by crutchy (1949900)
      except you can't (in any way) contract yourself out of statute law, at least in Australia (not sure about NY/US), and the Australian Competition and Consumer Act implies certain warranties (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Competition_and_Consumer_Act_2010#Conditions_and_Warranties_.28Division_2_and_2A_of_Part_V.29), so if you buy software for controlling a machine (for example) and the machine causes physical injury that is found to have been caused by a bug in the software, the software company would most li
  • Do nothing. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    CYA and don't share anything. If they want it badly enough, they can contract you to build something similar.

    • All they have to do is file a FOIA request and "force" you to turn over the codebase, what they do with it after that is not your concern or liability...
      perhaps you could even automate handling of FOIA requests for the automation of FOIA request requests, which in turn handles automation of FOIA requests for the automated grant handler...
      I think I got that close enough...
      -nB

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The county wants to make sure no one can make a profit off of this, AND they want to make sure no one can sue them?

    1) GET
    2) A
    3) LAWYER

    Surely the county must have one or two floating around who can do this. This is not an IT function. Sheesh! Learn where your boundaries are, boy.

    • by jpate (1356395) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @01:24PM (#39735737) Homepage
      Why does the county care if somebody else makes money on it? That's just vindictive. As long as there's nothing blocking somebody from developing useful things for free, I see no reason to forbid business uses.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by westyvw (653833)

        Every year a company comes drops down a freedom of information act for a particular piece of software in our state. They take it and go out and make money with it. Every year I argue that we should just put it out on the Internet so we can save the freedom of information act request time and money. Whats wrong with giving back the tax dollars in research to help put someone (and their employees) to work?

      • Release it with an Affero [wikipedia.org] license. That way, they'll be able to use the software and make money off of it, but they'll then have to make it available to everybody else (and, thus, "Spread the wealth").
    • by gd2shoe (747932)

      Absolutely. But bear in mind that sometimes you'll be ignored unless you start someone else's job for them. If you hand them a stack of half-true claims, sometimes it will induce them to go look up facts. (or it could just make them mad, but they presumably weren't doing their jobs to begin with)

      On another note: the derogatory "boy" has a racial tone to it, and should be avoided unless you know for sure you're not addressing someone of color. I really wish our language wasn't being co-opted by innuendo

      • I'm not sure if AC is from Australia or not, but I feel compelled to apologize on their behalf as most of us are not aware of this. Even one of our greatest celebrities made the same mistake: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWKyDGGptA4 [youtube.com]
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        On another note: the derogatory "boy" has a racial tone to it

        Yes, in the US, but only among blacks. You'll hear one redneck referring to another redneck as a "good ol' boy" but not a black man. The reason is slavery. Slaves were not considered people, they were regarded in the same way as a horse or a dog -- a work animal. How do you call your dog? "Here, boy!" So when you call a black man "boy" you're saying he's subhuman. Of course they're going to take it as an insult, and I, for one, can't blame them fo

        • by gd2shoe (747932)

          Yes, in the US, but only among blacks... The reason is slavery.

          Uh, yeah. And? Were you expounding for the general reader, or did you think I missed that somehow?

          To reiterate: "the derogatory "boy" has a racial tone to it, and should be avoided unless you know for sure you're not addressing someone of color."

          Of course they're going to take it as an insult, and I, for one, can't blame them for being offended.

          It retained it's negative connotation through out segregation, and into simmering racial tensions. The fact remains that the wounds will not fully heal until they can put such things behind them. There are many different life circumstances in the nation, but most

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            I was expounding for the general reader. Not eveyone knows why "boy" is racist.

            The fact remains that the wounds will not fully heal until they can put such things behind them.

            I couldn't agree more. 150 years ago the Irish were "spades" and were looked down on, "Mick" was a derogatory term for the Irish. Now Americans of Irish descent are proud to call themselves "Micks" and tell jokes about drunken Irishmen.

            • by gd2shoe (747932)
              Well, in that case it seems I overreacted. Glad you've got your head on straight. Not everyone can wrap their minds around the idea.
  • This one? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 19, 2012 @01:04PM (#39735529)

    Online Grants Management System
    Suffolk County, New York
    Population: 1,493,350 (2010)
    Program Year: 2011

    Abstract:
    In Suffolk County, NY, the development of grant applications as well as the coordination of successfully funded grants across was determined to be an inefficient system.. Individual staff and programmatic units each kept their own separate monitoring and tracking systems that recorded different levels and phases of grants. In some instances, there were gaps in the collection of information. An interdisciplinary group convened to discuss the problem and to plan for improvements. The planning group brainstormed and used additional quality improvement strategies in order to develop the Grants management System (GMS). GMS has developed as a centralized tracking and coordination system that tracks grants through very phase: the evaluation of whether to apply for a Request for proposal (RFP), application submission, grant award, acceptance of the award by the county, development and finalization of contracts, inventory management, monitoring of expenditures, claiming, revenue receipting, grants reporting, grants purchases, etc. Feedback from SCDHS staff indicated a high level of satisfaction with GMS, improved knowledge and skills, improved management and implementation of grants. Due to the improved efficiencies of GMS, the SCDHS was able to reduce the grants staff by 2 Full Time Equivalents (FTE), with significant cost savings.
     

  • by perbu (624267) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @01:04PM (#39735541)
    What is it with this fear that someone will make a buck? It does not diminish the value of the original work, rather it ads to it. The county should focus on what their job is and if somebody actually manages to create something valuable from that - great!
    • by manoweb (1993306)
      I strongly agree!!! On the other hand, I am not surprised that the government is concerned of private citizens doing things they cannot control ;)
    • by gr8_phk (621180)

      What is it with this fear that someone will make a buck? Yes, this puzzled me. It's like the BSD vs GPL arguments, but it's odd to me that folks in government are thinking like this. While I support the position, I would not have expected it from them.

    • by SEWilco (27983)
      I'm sure that the county also has barricades and checkpoints to keep the evil commercial trucks off the county roads.
      • by mydn (195771)
        I'm sure that the county has an armed force that patrols the county roads to ensure that commercial vehicles on those roads have paid their fees.
    • by Dynedain (141758)

      I'm sure the fear is that a commercial company will simply copy their work, and then go around selling it to other agencies without substantial improvement.

      Stuff like this happens all the time in government contracting.

      • by grzzld (1206404)

        I'm sure the fear is that a commercial company will simply copy their work, and then go around selling it to other agencies without substantial improvement.

        Stuff like this happens all the time in government contracting.

        While I cannot directly speak for the powers that be, I believe this is their concern.

        • by noh8rz3 (2593935)
          yes, but so what? from one perspective it's "unfair" because county isn't profiting from its work, but from another perspective the county isn't going to monetize it anyway, so who cares if somebody else does. A healthier perspective: county did awesome award winning work, and it can improve the efficiency of other counties by distributing it widely. the best way to do this is to add a profit incentive!
    • by GoDj1rrA (2461586)

      What is it with this fear that someone will make a buck? It does not diminish the value of the original work, rather it ads to it. The county should focus on what their job is and if somebody actually manages to create something valuable from that - great!

      The government doesn't appreciate people generating a profit using their systems. It sets a bad precedent. Next thing you know, the people will expect them to run efficiently as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Many licenses, both open source, copyleft, and proprietary contain wording similar to:

    There is no warranty for the program, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Except when otherwise stated in writing the copyright holders and/or other parties provide the program “as is” without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. The entire risk as to the quality and performance of

    • And what is the "extent permitted by applicable law"? I can see this could still be a liability concern.

  • by Toreo asesino (951231) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @01:05PM (#39735547) Journal

    The site schema? Custom web-parts? Masterpages? Data? Everything?

    You could create a site definition that contained as much or as little or as much as your site as you wanted; wrap it up in a Visual Studio solution/WSP and then people could deploy an instance of your site with all of the above pre-previsioned. At that point it's just a SharePoint extension so would be no different to open-sourcing an Office extension. Even better, site templates are largely just XML files so it's even less "complicated" than custom-code - it's all just parsed by the core product.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      agreed, if it is just a few web parts and "theme" then package the bits up and put them on codeplex. It's a shame you used sharepoint, if this was a (say) Drupal site, then you could just zip up the entire site and deliver it as-is, sql DB and all, and tell the recipients "this is what I did, all yours as an open source gift as if you'd developed it yourself".

      • by jmauro (32523)

        You can do the same thing with SharePoint solutions now. Granted there are still some quirks.

        Why it took Microsoft 7 years to make them functional enough to use after the launch of SharePoint I have no idea.

        • Most of that time the SP tools team spent writing a method to distinguish between various kinds of COMExceptions. ~

          (Yes, I did develop for SharePoint. These are the scars that don't heal.)

          • by gbjbaanb (229885)

            they should have done it in VB.NET, catching exceptions by exception number is trivial in that. C# is the poorer cousin by comparison.

            Mind you, nothing much wrong with COM exceptions, maybe it was just the programmers using those .net exceptions that wrapped them that was the problem.

            • The problem in this case is that SharePoint API is entirely .NET-based, but in practice it's a wrapper (sometimes more and sometimes less thin) around a lot of COM stuff. And they didn't bother to wrap exceptions, for the most part, so it is very common to call some API, have it fail, and get a COMException that tells absolutely nothing about what went wrong. If you're really lucky, you'll get a meaningful message in it (from IErrorInfo), but more often than not it's just E_FAIL with no further explanation.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I work for another muni and have encountered similar questions about software we have developed. You need to take this to your legal department to determine which licenses are acceptable to your legal department before you start asking Slashdot/reddit/intertubes any of these questions. You may find that the GPL is a great license which you whole heartily support only to have your legal department say "WTF?! No!" or worse depending on your clauses within your muni. Once you get legals take on what licenses a

    • He's got a doubly rough road because even if the lawyers can be tamed, you'll still have to get the tech workers on the other side to swallow Sharepoint. Which, from personal experience, is like slowly twisting rusty screws underneath your fingernails. But then again, I was a developer placed in a site administrator's role.

      But to get the bean-counters to swallow the GPL while simultaneously getting geeks to swallow MS's monstrosity, in the public sector... That has got to be the hardest sell I've ever h
  • People often list liability as a potential concern when they open source software, but is that a valid concern? Has any organization been sued because software they released to the world when they don't guarantee that it will do anything useful?

    If I open source a mortgage calculator that does an incorrect calculation, does anyone really have the grounds to sue me? After all, they have the source code, and are just as capable as me of finding a mistake in the code. And if they aren't capable of understanding

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's the US. There are *always* liability concerns.

    • by iamgnat (1015755)

      If I open source a mortgage calculator that does an incorrect calculation, does anyone really have the grounds to sue me? After all, they have the source code, and are just as capable as me of finding a mistake in the code. And if they aren't capable of understanding the source, maybe they shouldn't be using it.

      You mean like recalling and banning lawn darts because people are too stupid to figure out not to throw them at each other or stand under them when throwing them straight up? Or like all those people that (using your example) listened to their realtors/brokers and couldn't figure out that no they really couldn't afford that house? Or maybe like the guy that just won class action status against Apple because he was too busy to be a parent and use the tools Apple provided so his kid ran up a "large" bill with

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        If I open source a mortgage calculator that does an incorrect calculation, does anyone really have the grounds to sue me? After all, they have the source code, and are just as capable as me of finding a mistake in the code. And if they aren't capable of understanding the source, maybe they shouldn't be using it.

        You mean like recalling and banning lawn darts because people are too stupid to figure out not to throw them at each other or stand under them when throwing them straight up? Or like all those people that (using your example) listened to their realtors/brokers and couldn't figure out that no they really couldn't afford that house? Or maybe like the guy that just won class action status against Apple because he was too busy to be a parent and use the tools Apple provided so his kid ran up a "large" bill with micro payments?

        In the US people will sue over anything and really licenses and agreements mean less than which judge you get and what type of mood they are in that day. I understand and agree with the idea that you shouldn't be able to sign away your rights, but that should be balanced by common sense and responsibility (e.g. it's not the MFGs fault that a dart impaled you if you stood under it).

        Yes, interesting examples of the litigious nature of Americans (but I think the lawn dart case had merit - few would expect a toy marketed toward children to have the potential to penetrate a child's skull when the very nature of the game involves tossing the dart in the air so even if used properly such an accident could occur), but do you have examples of an open source software developer was sued (whether successfully or unsuccessfully) when the software he provided for free with no warranty didn't do wh

      • You mean like recalling and banning lawn darts...

        Darts which were sold. For money. This is product liablility. The key word is "product": something you sell. Giving away software with no expectation of being compensated creates no duty and therefor no liability.

    • by sir-gold (949031)

      For most companies, liability is just an excuse to force the workers do something, even when there is no legitimate (aka public) reason.

      Like making your delivery drivers buy their own liability insurance ($80 un-reimbursed per month), even when the company already has full liability insurance for all the drivers. Then they use that EXTREMELY strict insurance policy requirement (no more than 2 speeding tickets in 2 years, and no DUI ever in your lifetime) to selectively not hire people. All in the name of "l

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The county is trying to figure out how to protect ourselves from people making money from it

    Why do they care if someone can improve it and make money from it?
    Why are so many people scared to release something into the public domain for the greater good?

    • Keep in mind these people aren't artists, engineers, or anything like that. Their job isn't to do some airy-fairey "improve the world" BS, it's to get the best value for the money for their taxpayers. And if they release this program, somebody gets rich off it, their taxpayers are gonna be pissed. Their tax-money went to getting some guy rich. The question their bosses will be answering at the next Commission meeting isn't "How did you do the great thing of making that dude rich?," it'll be "Why was my tax

  • Making money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @01:10PM (#39735611)

    Why do you care if others make money off it? It's government developed so that means it was funded by taxpayer money.

    All taxpayers should have access to it, even if they want to make money from it. It should automatically be public domain.

    You can still CYA by a simple BSD style license.

    • by manoweb (1993306)
      And in fact, a license that disallows commercial usage or sets limits on how much money can be charged for the software is incompatible with Open Source.
    • by gr8_phk (621180)

      All taxpayers should have access to it, even if they want to make money from it. It should automatically be public domain.

      Actually, that would be "All taxpayers in that county should have access to it..." since they paid for it. Yet they are considering going quite a bit beyond that group.

      • Most counties get Federal funding that contributes to their budget. So some portion of it could be considered any US taxpayer.

    • by AngryNick (891056)
      I just remitted a check to the State of New York because of some kind of "revenue sharing" agreement I have with them related to my employment in the state. I believe this makes NY, and by association, your county employer, business partners of mine. I am therefore entitled to a share of the revenue/benefits achieved through this technology you created while employed by my business partner. I happen to need the money more than a WSP file, so please send me cash, check, or starbucks cards.
    • Funded by taxpayers doesn't infer the taxpayer has open use of what they funded. The B2 was taxpayer funded, but I can't just walk onto a base and ask to fly one, or get plans to build my own and offer joy rides for my own profit. I know there are probably several large holes in my analogy; maybe a car analogy would be better?
      • No, the flaw is that you are talking about physical property, not intellectual property. Also, it's something that's covered by national security.

        By law, the federal government does not retain copyright on anything it produces, but it can retain copyright on things transferred to it. This means any documents, source code, etc.. is in the public domain by default.

        This is also why there's a thing called the "Freedom of Information act" that forces the government to disclose documents that are not secret.

        Yes

  • NACo Award (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    No offense, but I won a NACo award as well...in the 90s. Seems cool, but I am aware that ANY submitted project 'wins'.
    I am not so certain I'd be using this award as a statement of how awesome the work is.
    * I am not saying the work is not awesome, just that this is not a good measurement.

    • by westyvw (653833)

      Just like all the "vendor" awards people are always going on about at my work. Stupidist. Thing. Ever. "Look I managed to use your software to do what it said I could do!"

      Hurray! Lets give em an award!

  • Under an open-source license and be sure to include disclaimers about providing no warranty as to its functionality and suitability for what they're trying to do with it. Best choice would be to consult with a good lawyer who has worked with a "free" distribution of software before. Only in America would you need a lawyer to give something away safely, but here we are.

  • You're a technical person asking a technical group a business question. Redirect your inquiry to a business person. If you were working for a commercial company, the terms of your distribution of this software would be sussed out by sales people, marketing people, business analysts, etc., but no technical people (unless you count sales engineers or the like).

    Don't give anyone access to your own infrastructure. Maybe offer to do a backup / restore or otherwise make copies, but offer these options to a busi
  • Talk to a lawyer! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2 AT anthonymclin DOT com> on Thursday April 19, 2012 @01:37PM (#39735869) Homepage

    If the county wants to share but is concerned about liability, THEY SHOULD TALK TO THEIR ON-STAFF/ IN-HOUSE/ ON-RETAINER legal counsel!

    They have them, I guarantee it. Use them. The last they want is a tech guy (who has already admitted he doesn't know the implications of the various licenses) fumbling around to figure this out.

    If they really really don't want to talk to their own legal counsel, then just prepare an instruction list that other municipalities could follow and publish that instead of trying to distribute the whole kit-and-kaboodle.

    • by olau (314197)

      I think that needs to be qualified with "knowledgeable in the field". A standard lawyer approach when facing uncertainty is: don't do it. With that mentality, you're going nowhere. You need to talk to someone who understands what this is about.

      • by Dynedain (141758)

        The county is already paying for legal counsel. Whether that's a full-time employee or an outside firm on retainer, they are paying for this service. The submitter needs to talk to them. Then he can help the legal team do the legwork for collecting appropriate licenses or such if they aren't sufficiently "knowledgeable in the field".

  • Protect yourselves from what? How would it harm you if someone made money from it?

    > The county just wants to make sure they can't be held liable

    People have been releasing Free software for thirty years or more with impunity. The University of California has not been sued over bugs in BSD. Linus Trovalds has not been sued over bugs in Linux. Why do you think you will be sued?

  • You exist a government entity and have one purpose and one sole purpose alone and that is to serve the residents of your municipality. You are clearly not in the business of making money through profit seeking endeavors.

    With that being said, you worked hard on this and it seems to be a huge success, so the municipality should benefit greatly from such an endeavor. You may have something that works great for you but honestly Sharepoint is really only good for internal apps and you certainly do not have a s

  • Open sourcing it doesn't prevent someone from making a buck off of it. All the license agreements in the world don't prevent you form getting sued. As a result, no is the easiest answer.
  • Are they people you hate or something? Friends shouldn't share crappy MS products like Sharepoint, VB, and Microsoft Bob / WinME with one another.
  • I'm guessing that Code for America, Open Source for America, or Civic Commons would have some experience in dealing with these issues, and have suggestions:

    ...and sure enough, it looks like Civic Commons has a page on legal policy, which includes ''Legal Issues and Best Practices With Converting/Contributing In-House Developed Code into a Reusable FOSS Project [civiccommons.org]". Also take a look under Chapter 4, as there's a bit of a

    • by westyvw (653833)

      It amazes me how few public employees actually know these sites exist. When I am consulting I find that the public sector is so f-ing brain dead when it comes to partnering and saving money that it hurts.

  • New York State Senate releases all the software they develop under a dual GPL3/BSD license. Pas it up to them to release and let them deal with it...

    http://www.nysenate.gov/developers/

  • If their major concern is that if we release it somebody will make money off of it then they need to release it, and release it in such a way that nobody can make money off of it. If somebody's able to make money off it, then clearly it's very useful, and it would be churlish to keep it to yourselves. You release it open source, with a No Guarantees license to prevent you from being sued when some jackass figures out a way to use it to turn over his entire Parket Ticket Payment Database to identity thieves.

  • Essentially: how to use an open-source license for something created within a closed-source framework? Clearly it's possible and it happens often with code developed for a closed-source language (like IDL or Matlab for example) but Sharepoint is not really a programming language and I don't know if your creative work can be extracted in a way that it can be licensed separately. I think that's what other comments were getting at by suggesting that you create meta-code like a how-to. That's probably a good i
  • by toby (759)
    Don't use SharePoint or CodePlex. Try this: http://github.com/ [github.com] or this http://launchpad.net/ [launchpad.net] or this http://bitbucket.org/ [bitbucket.org]

When all else fails, read the instructions.

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