Helping Open Source projects thrive by putting essential licensing data at teams’ fingertips  

ClearlyDefined is a crowdsourced project created by Microsoft in partnership with the Open Source Initiative. It was created in 2018 to boost the success of Open Source projects by more clearly defining project data. The project has seen a lot of growth since its inception, and thus we’d like to reintroduce ClearlyDefined to the OSI community.

Not every project team working with Open Source is aware of the importance of meeting license obligations. For those that are aware, many don’t know how to attain the factual licensing data they need, such as an individual project’s licenses, source code location, and details to be included in attributions, like copyright holders. What ends up happening is, users are prone to:

  • ignore the problem,
  • waste time vetting open source software through repetitive, duplicative efforts, or
  • employ external tools and services to do this task.

Missing data means weaker engagement. Absence of important licensing information reduces participation in a project – that means fewer users, fewer contributors, and a smaller community.

Tools and collaboration for completing vital information with ease

When information is missing, community members can use ClearlyDefined to harvest available data through tools such as ScanCode and FOSSology. Curation of that information is then facilitated through crowd-sourcing so it can be contributed to the upstream projects and included in the next release. Like any Open Source project, contributions are vetted and accepted by committers (called curators) before they are pushed up to the original projects.

The ClearlyDefined community that collaborates and makes these contributions is comprised of   individuals from organizations such as Microsoft, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., HERE Technologies, Amazon, nexB, the Eclipse Foundation, and Software Heritage. ClearlyDefined exists to contribute to a project’s success and build confidence for users.

ClearlyDefined gets even better

Of course, as a project of OSI, ClearlyDefined is a vendor-neutral project with an open governance model. The goals of ClearlyDefined are to:

  • Raise awareness about the challenge missing project data poses for project teams
  • Automatically harvest data from projects
  • Make it easy for anyone to contribute missing information
  • Crowd-source the curation of these contributions
  • Feed curated contributions back to the original projects

The key features that help ClearlyDefined boost the success of Open Source can be summed up as:

  • Centralized: ClearlyDefined is a central hub for all things Open Source software licenses. Discovery of and contribution to critical license data all happens in one place.
  • Curated: The project’s dedicated team of contributors are committed to completeness and accuracy of license data and welcome everyone to join the community.
  • Open Source: The more, the merrier. We all benefit from the open source nature of ClearlyDefined, where together, the community can make a meaningful contribution for all.

ClearlyDefined currently houses 17,746,961 definitions. That’s double what it housed last year. Having just undergone a UI redesign, data is displayed in a more user-friendly way, making it easier to understand and consume. In true Open Source fashion, the community of ClearlyDefined curators offered their feedback, and it’s now better than ever.

Here are six ways you can get involved in improving the Open Source ecosystem through engaging with ClearlyDefined:

  1. Use the data
  2. Curate data
  3. Contribute data
  4. Contribute code
  5. Add a harvest
  6. Adopt practices

The community is quite active, and there are several webinars to learn more about the project:

If you’re interested in working on this impactful project full-time, check out Microsoft’s open requisition for project engineer.

Join the ClearlyDefined Discord channel and get more regular updates on the OSI blog!