Loose ends make me feel uncomfortable, and one of the loose ends in my professional life is the Code4Lib Software Award.
Code4Lib began as a mailing list in 2003 and has grown to about 1,200 subscribers from all over the world. New people subscribe to the list almost daily. Its Web presence started up in 2005. Our conferences have been stimulating, informative, and productive for all three years of their existence. Our latest venture — the journal — records, documents, and shares the practical experience of our community. Underlying all of this is an IRC channel where answers to library-related computer problems can be answered in real-time. Heck, there even exists three for four Code4Lib “franchises”. In sum, by exploiting both traditional and less traditional mediums the Code4Lib Community has grown and matured quickly over the past five years. In doing so it has provided valuable and long-lasting services to itself as well as the greater library profession.
It is for the reasons outlined above that I believe our community is ripe for an award. Good things happen in Code4Lib. These things begin with individuals, and I believe the good code written by these individuals ought to be formally recognized. Unfortunately, ever since I put forward the idea, I have heard more negative things than positive. To paraphrase, “It would be seen as an endorsement, and we don’t endorse… It would turn out to be just a popularity contest… There are so many characteristics of good software that any decision would seem arbitrary.”
Apparently the place for an award is not as obvious to others as it is to me. Apparently our community is not as ready for an award as I thought we were. That is why, for the time being, I am withdrawing my offer to sponsor one. Considering who I am, I simply don’t have the political wherewithal to make the award a reality, but I do predict there will be an award at some time, just not right now. The idea needs to ferment for a while longer.