Any Revolution Can Be Repurposed

In fact this memorial to one — involving three days of killing in Paris over free speech for the press and a death sentence for blasphemy — has been:

Liberty and Vigilance
The July Column in the Place de la Bastille in Paris – itself dedicated to the celebration of liberty after the French Revolution – was erected in memory of the fallen of the later July Revolution of 1830. It’s not too far from the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

The July Revolution comprised three days of fighting in Paris, primarily on free speech grounds against state censorship. Charles X, France’s last hereditary monarch, had imposed the death penalty for blasphemy against Christianity. He also suspended the liberty of the press and dissolved the newly elected Chamber of Deputies.

Today, the column is used as a platform for surveillance cameras. We must be on our guard against similar repurposing today.

Legal Topics For Practical People

The track I’m chairing at Open World Forum in Paris next week is now public and I think we’ve got a pretty hot schedule there what with Richard Fontana and Bradley Kuhn rematched after their showdown at FOSDEM, plus the explanation of why SpagoBI switched from GPLv2 to MPLv2. Hope to see you at the event.

✈ In Sunlight

Today has been a beautiful day in Paris, spent walking and talking in the brilliant autumnal sunlight with dear and charming friends – which has been the theme for the whole weekend, actually. The distance between here and the things that usually hold my attention could hardly be greater and it’s an unusual but welcome break from routine.
All the devices with me are perfectly capable of relaying the e-mail, social networks, instant messages and more, but the combination of the HADOPI-inspired absence of open WiFi hotspots and the self-destructively over-priced 3G data roaming (hey Orange: if it was cheaper people would buy it and you’d make more money, not less) means I spend my vacation days here in the heart of Europe blissfully unaware of the rest of the electronic world.

Which I suppose is by way of apologising for not answering any e-mails this week!

✈ Awe

The huge public art event in Paris this weekend – Nuit Blanche – included some works on an absolutely monumental scale. One bridge was covered with a huge scaffolding structure with gauze wrapped over cubic sections illuminated by video projectors. The resulting work, accompanied by penetrating ambient music, was enthralling – holding thousands of people captive with it’s ever-changing, all-consuming imagery.

When we reached Notre Dame, however, it was clear something very special was going on. Usually flood-lit (and with the windows dark), the ancient cathedral was in darkness – but with radiantly-illuminated stained glass windows, lit from within. As we passed, they opened the doors to the building and we were swept in with the crowd.

Inside, the building was mostly unlit. Incredibly powerful white spotlights in the chancel were pointing up at each of the rose windows, and the area around the crossing was filled with votive candles whose smoke gave just enough opacity to turn the light beams into marble columns of light. Meanwhile, a gentle ambient soundtrack was being played, somehow enhancing the silence and overcoming the sounds of footsteps and hushed conversation. For me, the sense it produced was of awe – aweful, in the good sense.

This was all an art-work by Thierry Dreyfus, and if his goal was to capture and express the feeling of being in awe in the presence of greatness, he succeeded. His was for me the highlight in art and in communication for the year so far, and will remain a key Paris memory for a long time.

✍ Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

Joan of ArcIn my “state of the FOSS world” comments during the opening plenary of Open World Forum in Paris recently, I observed how important it is to remember our founding principles. Modern France was founded on “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” and that same formulation – liberty, equality and community – is at the heart of the free and open source movement. Of course, as The Terror proved in France, not everything done in the name of the revolution is actually good, and it’s important to return to principles regularly to understand them for a new age. Here are my “state of the FOSS World” points.

The last decade has seen many open source activities run for the benefit of a single company, but the roots of software freedom can be found in the synchronisation of part of the interests of many equal participants. The next phase of open source should embrace “open-by-rule” and have the liberties of every participant respected equally. We have already seen OpenStack and The Document Foundation arise; I believe there will be more.

The benefits that businesses derive from open source – especially flexibility, vendor independence and the cost savings that result from both through accelerated and simplified procurement – arise from Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. Jeffrey Hammond presented research showing lower barriers to adoption of open source software in enterprises as their understanding of and comfort with open source improve.

They will reap the benefits most when they recognise that open source business value is the derivative of flexibility, innovation and independence, and that those are themselves the derivatives of liberty. That is to say, all business benefits of open source are the first and second derivative of liberty, exercised in a community of equality. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, in other words.

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