☝ Crowdsource is not open source

I’ve heard a few conversations in the last week treating open source interchangeably with crowdsourcing. Despite sounding the same they are very different, and the key difference is the ownership of the outcome. Open source is not the same as crowdsourcing because open source community members are stakeholders whereas crowdsourcers get less than sharecroppers.

Read on at ComputerWorldUK

☞ Hidden Motives

  • Michael Geist shrewdly observes that, far from being the exclusive domain of military diplomacy as might be deduced from coverage, the Wikileaks diplomatic cables uncover the fact that huge numbers of “intellectual property” issues are involved. Many of us have known for a long time that the US acts on behalf of its biggest companies in advancing a restrictive global copyright, patent and trademark regime, and we may well be about to see just how often they bully other countries over strictly commercial matters.
  • Looks like a great way to ensure you receive an “enhanced pat-down” from humourless, over-empowered, unaccountable and underpaid security people who don’t see any kind of joke no matter how cool you think it is.

☞ For Your Safety

  • With WikiLeaks back in the news, this story from 2009 is more relevant than ever. Having rendered WikiLeaks “illegal” last year, it’s now easy to target it without causing a stir. Banning links is simply pointless as it’s easily circumvented and inapplicable outside their jurisdiction. Once someone makes that clear, the next step could be to criminalise clicking on links to banned sites (perhaps as part of the proposed ISP filtering), at which point we’ve got to “thought police” living. This is the web equivalent of “security theatre” and it’s to be despised anywhere it shows up.
  • Excellent article by Bruce Schneier sets the benchmark for any future discussion and clearly identifies the problem as politicians and civil servants covering their backsides instead of making people as safe as possible.
  • The product is amazingly ridiculous, but the “customer reviews” have become a creative writing contest without peer.
  • Very reasonable and balanced commentary from Mark Wielaard calls for the licence terms surrounding JDK7 and 8 to be reconsidered in the light of the need for open source communities to be able to freely work with the specifications.

☞ Science and Sensibility

☞ Tracking Change

  • Lengthy and favourable review of the 451 report on “Control and Community” (which they have very kindly sent to me as well). I agree with Henrik that it’s an excellent report.
  • While this may indeed be a nasty case of synchronicity, the incident serves to prove how ridiculous it is for software implementation in an era of open source and open standards to be patentableThe sooner software patents are put beyond use of any corporation, the better.

☞ Difference of Opinion

  • Henrik Ingo has been a key persuader in the emergence of MariaDB, Monty Program AB and the Open Database Alliance from the consequences of the takeovers of MySQL, so his departure is a big symbolic blow. All the more so because his stated reason for leaving is that MariaDB is apparently not being run in a way that respects the ownership of the trademark. I’m sure there’s more to be understood here, so I am waiting to read it before saying more myself – talking with Monty directly suggests there’s no new news and contact with Henrik actually backs that up to a degree.

☞ Working The System

  • After an unpleasant wake-up call (caused, I am assured, by an administrative error) where their whole community resource was shut down for a week or more without warning, recourse or an end-date, the Hudson community has “rehosted and carried on” independently of Oracle. Yes, I am aware that the java.net migration was expected; but the Hudson move wasn’t, yet.
  • Of interest mainly to UK readers, there’s a campaign in progress to rig the pop charts again this Christmas and once again disrupt the crass self-enrichment of the modern pop svengalis. They were so full of self-righteous indignation last year they missed the whole point, accusing rage Against The Machine instead of seeing how the campaign was critical of their formulaic exploitation of the TV-drugged masses. So this year the Christmas Number One is John Cage’s 4′ 33″ – let’s vote for a Silent Night this year!
  • Prompted by concerns like the ones I expressed, Novell has issued a statement confirming that they will retain the UNIX copyrights they own.
  • The Guardian has an award for open source activity this year. Pity there’s an entry fee, since that clearly excludes non-commercial open source innovations, but at least it’s a start.
  • If you’re using FireFox, there’s really no reason not to install this plug-in by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It makes sure all your connections to social media sites (and more) are secure, preventing the sort of privacy intrusion FireSheep enables.

☆ The case for “rossio”

Raucous Currawong[Versão em português no final – Portuguese version at the end]

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

In translating my article “Community Types” into Portuguese, Bruno, Ana and I ran into an interesting challenge. I frequently refer to the “free software commons” that is at the heart of any open source community, meaning the pool of software under an open source licence that community members collaborate to maintain. In English, I use the word “Commons” more as a reference to its American English usage, popularised for cultural artefacts by the Creative Commons movement, than to the original English usage which related to a resource shared by a privileged and select few.

But in every-day Portuguese, the concept seems to be largely absent. The most common practice is to take a phrase like mine and leave it untranslated (“Commons do Software Livre”), or to use a phrase like “bem comum” (“communal property”). Neither is satisfactory. The former lacks the cultural echoes necessary to give the term depth of meaning. The latter frankly sounds weird, both in Portuguese (“bem comum do software livre”) or English (“communal free software property”).

None of us knew what to do, but before the seemingly inevitable compromise I asked on Identi.ca. Fairly quickly FSF-LA’s Alexandre Oliva came up with a great answer. He pointed us to a paper by the late Professor Imre Simon proposing the adoption of a somewhat defunct term from European Portuguese, “rossio”. The word has a historical origin meaning exactly the same as “commons” and is used as the colloquial name for the central square in Lisbon, but seems unfamiliar to all the Portuguese-speakers I have asked. Indeed, the paper itself says:

Para começar, vale esclarecer nosso título, que sem dúvida soa enigmático. O que é o rossio não-rival? (Before we get started, we should clarify our title, which may appear somewhat enigmatic…)

We then heard from one of the co-authors of the paper, Miguel Vieira, confirming that the term “rossio” was indeed coined in this context for just the purpose I was suggesting. The fact that “rossio” is not understood by most Portuguese speakers today need not be an obstacle; the term “commons” used to describe a shared software repository or cultural asset was just as unfamiliar to many English speakers until Creative Commons repurposed it and indeed remains unfamiliar to many today. Language grows when people choose to attach meaning to a word.

Given the regard Professor Simon is held by the people I have spoken to, both as an educator and as a software freedom pioneer in Brazil, it seems highly appropriate to pick up his suggestion – as we hope others will do – and appropriate the term “rossio” to mean “commons” throughout my writing. So that’s what we intend to do in future.

Em defesa do “rossio”

“Quando eu uso uma palavra,” disse Humpty Dumpty, em um tom de desdém, “significa exatamente o que eu escolhi significar — nem mais nem menos.”

Traduzindo meu artigo “Community Types” para o português, Bruno, Ana e eu encontramos um desafio interessante. Eu frequêntemente me refiro ao “free software commons” que está no coração de qualquer comunidade software livre, e que significa o conjunto de software sob uma licença livre e que membros da comunidade colaboram para manter. Em inglês, eu uso a palavra  “Commons” mais como uma referência ao seu uso no inglês americano, popularizado para artefatos culturais pelo movimento Creative Commons, do que o seu uso original do inglês britânico que se refere a um recurso compartilhado por uns poucos privilegiados.

Mas, no português do dia a dia, esse conceito parece ser inexistente. A prática mais comum é manter uma frase como a minha e deixá-la não traduzida (“Commons do Software Livre”), ou usar uma frase como “bem comum”. Nenhuma das opções é satisfatória. A primeira perde os ecos culturais necessários para dar ao termo o significado profundo pretendido. A segunda parece estranha, tanto em português (“bem comum do software livre”) ou em inglês (“communal free software property”).

Nenhum de nós sabia o que fazer, mas antes de fazermos uma escolha aparentemente inevitável, eu perguntei na Identi.ca. Rapidamente Alexandre Oliva da FSF-LA nos trouxe uma ótima resposta. Ele indicou um artigo do falecido Professor Imre Simon propondo a adoção de um esquecido termo do português europeu, “rossio”. A palavra tem a origem histórica que significa exatamente a mesma coisa do que “commons” e é usado como nome coloquial da praça central de Lisboa. Infelizmente, é um termo desconhecido por todos os que falam português que eu contactei. Mesmo o artigo concede isso:

Para começar, vale esclarecer nosso título, que sem dúvida soa enigmático. O que é o rossio não-rival?

Nós entao recebemos a informação do co-autor do artigo, Miguel Vieira, confirmando que o termo “rossio” foi de fato usado nesse contexto exatamente para o propósito que eu estava sugerindo. A realidade de que “rossio” não é uma palavra conhecida pela maioria dos que falam português hoje não precisa ser um obstáculo; o termo “commons” usado para descrever um repositório compartilhado de software ou um conteúdo cultural também era desconhecido para muitos que falam inglês até que a Creative Commons aplicou o termo com esse novo propósito, e até hoje ainda é um termo desconhecido para muitos. A língua cresce quando as pessoas escolhem aplicar um significado a uma palavra.

Dado que todos com quem conversei tem grande respeito pelo Professor Simon, tanto como um educador, mas também como um pioneiro da liberdade de software no Brasil, nos parece altamente apropriado usarmos sua sugestão — como esperamos que outros farão — e passar a utilizar o termo “rossio” como significado de “commons” em todos os meus textos. É isso que pretendemos fazer no futuro.

☞ Doing It Right

  • Google apparently wants to donate Wave to Apache. This can work very well for orphaned projects (Sun donated Jini when it finally was obvious it had no future as a product but was important to customers, for example). This will be very interesting to watch.
  • Diaspora private alpha just released
    I concur with all Ruth’s points here; open source projects don’t have “private alphas”. I was an enthusiastic supporter of Diaspora when they started, but they seem to have succumbed to all sorts of bad advice about retaining control of everything from apparently more experienced people and are heading towards a system with serious software freedom flaws. Orderly roll-out is one thing, but they are completely closed and following the same path with a social media system that made Wave fail.
  • Great selection that just goes to show there’s nothing new under the sun.

☂ Open Source Monetisation Essay Posted

My essay asserting that open source projects aren’t about giving stuff away for free is now available from the Essays section.

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