Organic Software

This weekend we went to Winchester Farmers’ Market. It was a beautiful day and the season is especially rich so there’s a wonderful range of produce on offer. Our larder and fridge are now full of produce grown nearby: onions, squash, courgettes, beans, fir apple potatoes, garlic, watercress and plenty more. Tonight we’ll have River Test trout, sip a locally grown wine, nibble local cheese and finish with berries we harvested ourselves last week.

Wandering around the market, I used two of my OSCON bags – one canvas one to carry my cameras, and one of this year’s black nylon Chico bags for produce. A stallholder spotted them both and asked me which convention I’d been to. I told him I’d been to the Open Source Convention each year for the last decade, and he was interested to find out what that was. “Organic software”, I said. I explained to him that he could be using open source software free of charge and be liberated from the corporations that were taxing him on computer software.

Rather like me at the Farmer’s Market actually. I’m there because I’m tired of being in Nestlé’s net, sucking from the teat of the maize and sugar industry, wondering if I’m eating Frankenfood, ignorant of the environmental cost of getting the food in front of me. Rather than going to a big-chain supermarket and leaving the provenance of the food to them, I go to the farmers’ market because I get to ask the producers about their food, get encouraged to cook creatively and even grow my own (several plant stalls there) and give help to other people doing the same.

Some people do ask whether the farmers’ market is scalable – surely having a big corporation planning all the production is better? But no, each week the market is full of produce produced by local people who love growing it, and producers turn up to sell in proportion to the number of people who show up to buy. No-one seemed to be struggling to make a living. The stallholder had never heard of or Firefox, but easily got the idea that software made by a community could be great and that having everyone doing the part they can for themselves means there’s no need to have a big corporation wanting you to pay. There are no hidden ingredients either, and despite the lack of pesticides there seem to be fewer bugs…

Open source is “organic software” and its time has come. He’s going home to his organic produce and to look for “open source software” and “open office”. Me – I’m reflecting on Software Freedom Day as I prepare my trout.

Software Freedom Day 2009 logo

[By Simon Phipps, OSI Board observer. Also posted here]