☆ Oslo Position

Stave Church DragonI’ll be speaking at GoOpen in Oslo on Tuesday (on the Grand Panel at 20:00) and Wednesday (the closing keynote). I’d love to meet with you if you’ll be in Oslo this week – find me at the event.

I was asked for a two-paragraph “position statement” so the panel moderator knew where I was coming from, so I sent this:

Open source is what the older concept of software freedom turns into when it happens on the world-wide web. The ever-increasing reach of the web has led to ever-increasing use of open source. That expansion has made it increasingly a business requirement passed to suppliers that software used in enterprises is open source in some way.  That in turn has made software vendors increasingly try their best to cheat, pretending that all it takes is an open source license to make something open source and that software freedom is irrelevant.

It doesn’t. Software freedom takes more than just a license. It takes a living community that’s open-by-rule, where every participant is free to pursue his or her own motivations for participating, doing so at his or her own cost. As the games companies play get more sophisticated, so the remedies communities create need to be more effective. Usually the best remedy is based on transparency, common sense and community empowerment. All the time open source is important, the game will be elevated, so I believe today we need benchmarks, best practices and inter-community co-operation if we’re to see software freedom build the open society I know it can.

That will be the background for my comments on the panel and for my keynote – what do you think? Comments below please – help me write my talk 😉

3 Responses

  1. To start with I fully support your focus on community rather than licensing or availability of source code. There are initiatives where the committers are all employed by the same company, and where the door in practice is closed for any non-employed to get committer rights. I do not consider such communities part of open source movement.

    However, looking at open source and public funding I think software developed under public funding should (per default) be made available under some open source license, and with at least basic community governance.

    This is a parallel to the open data movement. If the data might be of use for some other part in society, it should be made available. If source code for some function might be of use for some other part of society (commercial, NPOs, or other governmental agency), then it should be made available – and open a chance for a community to form.

    Of course, exceptions might apply – to open source as well as to open data – but I think open should be the default.

    • Dan. I agree. It would be very important that public administrations would better understand the added value of Free Software communities.
      Often PAs buy software solutions and create a lock-in to the software provider and to the software solution itself.
      In Italy we have the “Direttiva Stanca” which introduced the concept of “Riuso” meaning “reuse”. This imposes the PAs to define contracts for custom software they buy, allowing them to share the software with all other PAs in Italy. It is a kind of “Sub Open Source for PAs”.
      But the directive does not consider the need for a really open community access. And the PA, like most companies, does not really understand the need for investment into building a community. To build a community of users, developers and service providers it is not enough to attach a license and put the source code online. The effort needed is much higher! Everybody hopes this will happen automagically, but that is very unlikely.
      The PA should find ways to help itself and companies to create Free Software Communities around innovative projects they use. Because the real advantage of FOSS projects are the communities, which foster innovation and provide services. Please consider that FOSS Service Providers are a fundamental part of the community.
      PAs shouldn’t just buy software solutions, but invest in the community, invest in the people!

  2. Hey Simon!

    I just wanted to thank you again for the chat (and the beer!) at Go Open and your contribution to the panel discussion. The panel was both inspiring and entertaining and I left the conference the next morning with many new thoughts sloshing around in my head.

    It is going to be interesting to try and strike a balance between providing leadership to my project (www.pagekite.net), building a business around it and letting the project have a life and community of its own.

    I think your insights are quite accurate, but I’m still pondering how to apply them to such a small, young project.

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