Open Source and Open Standards
For some time, the term “Open Standard” has been gaining in market popularity. Unlike Open…
Yes! Open Source Is As Relevant As Ever!
There’s an idea that’s becoming increasingly popular here in Chapel Hill, and it’s expressed by one of two bumper stickers. The first is: Ignore Your Rights And They’ll Go Away The second is: No, You Can’t Have My Rights, I’m Still Using Them These apply equally well to the definition of Open Source software. For quite some time, we’ve faced opposition from those who want nothing more than to spread ignorance–to tell people it’s OK to ignore what rights may or may not convey with the software they buy. They believe that if enough people simply ignore Open Source, it will go away.
Alfresco shifts to the GPL
Three cheers for Alfresco for changing their license to the GPL. The first cheer is because they are shifting away from a license which, as a modified version of an OSI-approved license, was not, technically, Open Source as the OSI defines it. We all remember the days when high-flying technology companies reported “pro-forma” financials instead of pure GAAP financials. The logic was that GAAP was the standard upon which their model was based, but they just wanted to make a few tweaks to better reflect the true value of their company. The liberties some companies took with GAAP created a slippery slope for both the companies and their investors, leading to massive discrepancies between reports and reality. Starting with an OSI-approved open source license and then making some discretionary changes without getting the new license approved can (and has) led to similar problems with respect to the spirit and the letter of the OSD. By stepping away from a modified Mozilla license and embracing an OSI-approved license, Alfresco makes their intentions clear to all–they are an Open Source business.
Long on Words, Short on Understanding
The Open Source Initiative is not the only organization with ideas about how to better understand, and thus develop and exploit software. At the opposite end of the spectrum seems to be The Progress and Freedom Foundation, and their Senior Fellow, James DeLong, who has just posted a new and thoroughly confusing article that appears to praise Open Source and the OSI, but for no valid reasons.
The article I read just prior to DeLong’s piece (and to which I will return momentarily) was this piece from another respected journal: The Onion. Please read Experts call for restrictions on childhood imagination and then come back. It finishes with the quote:
When is Open Source not Open Source?
The scientific community has developed theories that attempt to explain every phenomenon from Planck Scale (which is 1.616 x 10-35 m) to the size of the Universe (which is estimated to be at least 78 billion light years (or 7.38 x 1026 m). A minority group of people who demand to be called scientists have advanced their own theory, Intelligent Design, arguing that its rejection by the scientific community proves that science itself is too narrow-minded, and must be expanded to allow theories that cannot be independently tested. According to the Wikipedia’s entry on Intelligent Design, not a single article on Intelligent Design has been accepted by any peer-reviewed scientific journal. Does that fact argue against the integrity of the scientific method, or against the integrity of the claim that Intelligent Design is a legitimate scientific theory? And what does this have to do with Open Source?
2007 and beyond
2006 was a pivotal year for Open Source. 2007 should be a banner year. In 2006, the OSI’s agenda was focused on the problem of license proliferation (defining it, addressing it, and solving it), the harmonization of the definitions of open standards and open source software, and the launch of the new, version 3.0 website, which now serves this content. Of course the OSI also managed the day-to-day business of discussing and approving licenses, fund raising, answering frequently asked questions, and acting as faithful stewards of the Open Source Definition. With approximately 60 licenses approved by the OSI since 1998, many open source stakeholders agreed that while choice was a Good Thing, too much choice was Too Much of a Good Thing. The License Proliferation Committee brought together a wide variety of stakeholders (license authors and license users, software developers and corporate attorneys) to discuss and recommend how to best remain inclusive and innovative while diminishing the risk of the open source community fragmenting into too many separate, incompatible licensing factions. Their discussions and recommendations resulting in a categorization that has helped simplify the understanding of the many open source licenses that exist, the development of software tools to help licensors choose appropriate licenses, and has precipitated the voluntary retirement of several licenses.