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Open Source Syndrome Disorder

Where you all at?

Mon Mar 17 15:40:00 2014

This week I will be talking at FLOSS UK’s Spring Conference in Brighton. I hope to interest the crowd a little on the stance about Perl’s apparent moribundity and recent developments/attitudes in the Perlverse.

It has led me to think a little about the Open Source world itself. How we can have the notion of freely available source code? How we can have communities linked by a common desire to create tools and platforms that cut across their diverse environments, history, philosophy and belief? And for the purpose of this piece, how you can have companies that are active participants or exist solely by the use of, but not contribution to, community software?

Open Source is a community phenomena. The reach of this community can be global but its existence is dependent on, and evolved out of, social not corporate forces.

This has led me to think, where do you place yourself on a spectrum that stretches from the extremes of freedom of speech, expression, movement and usage to the control of a product/service by the restriction of imitation even to the level of concept.

For the spectrum is that vast. The various licences of Open Source and freedoms in the community have bred an environment where those viewpoints can be expressed against the same technology. Think UNIX/Linux/GNULinux.

On the one end of the spectrum would be Richard Stallman, well regarded as a founding force in the FSF movement and close association with GNULinux. Richard is no stranger to controversy and courting extreme reactions to his hard-line stances on freedom of speech and fighting corporate restrictions on ownership. An academic with a thorough understanding of rights, transference of property and ownership, of liberty and the distribution via community licences, copyright (copyleft) and patents

The other end of this Open Source mini-spectrum is über-famous Tim Cook, Apple CEO who promotes overwhelming control asserted from the ownership of property. Tim is a seemingly decent person but his company builds strongly protected software on top of open source languages and platforms then dominates and restricts others who even dare to challenge its mind realms. Apple are so far from the argument they almost don’t belong on this scale, however OSX is Net BSD and iOS is written in Objective-C, placing them in our OS world.

Somewhere in the middle (though to the right of centre in a manner similar to the Republican National Party, UK Conservatives and the Tony Blair Philosophy) sits the burgeoning Facebook and Google eco-systems. A heady mixture of open source homage and corporate profiteering. These giants are able to show great promise to do good by building their containment walls in the far distance. Their willingness to embrace disruptive technology is matched only by their rapaciousness to own it all. They are the modern day children to the East India Tea Company bringing liberation and expansion to the masses by the extension of their dominions.[1]

Open Source Spectrum

So Riddle me this:

  1. Where do you stand?

  2. Why do you stand there?

Answers in the comments or by email/social media to me. I am really curious to hear from you all.


[1] Though some distance to this philosophy must be made about Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook does match his thinking in many ways and yet differs in others. I see the differences between the culture of their developoers and the oscillation of the founder. Zuck is familiar for having contrary reports blasted over news spreads about his life. The Zuck doesn’t quite hold any sense in the examination between what he says he believes and what he does. The most telling recent example is his revelation that he fears for internet privacy. He worries for privacy from the NSA and he spoke to Obama about it in a personal phone call, he's happy to tell us this so we can feel reassured about how seriously he takes it.

Which basically means that to the Zuck personal is not private. If you have a conversation with someone feel free to use it in an anecdote to the whole planet, it is only a third party that is at fault for doing the same thing. Apply this behaviour to his company and you will see it almost precisely matches Facebook's policies and their business model. But it doesn't match many aspects of their developer's culture.