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OSI Board Blog

Newer, More Modern opensource.org

If you're coming to this URL for the first time in awhile, you may think you're in the wrong place...

Nope, we've just finally soft-launched our new website. The old one was largely hard-coded (as was common back in 1998 when it was launched). It got to be too hard to maintain, as many of you noticed. Many thanks to our volunteer webmaster, Steve Mallett, for putting up this new Drupal-based site that we can edit and contribute to more easily.

Less is More...what's so hard about simplicity?

I am continuing to process Made To Stick, a Guns, Germs, and Steel-quality treatment about why some ideas survive and others die. I heard the authors interviewed courtesy of our local National Public Radio affiliate WUNC (which does their share of great content generation, btw), and to fit the ultra-dense format of radio, they said "there are six success factors for making an idea stick, but the first three, Simple, Unexpected, and Concrete, are the most important."

As the authors tell it, experts suffer from The Curse of Knowledge, and the nature of the curse is such that it is almost impossible for those so cursed to keep things simple or, for that matter, concrete. Complexity is fun, and abstraction is what gives theories their power. It also makes them notoriously transient in people's minds.

Yes, the 'open source' label is still relevant and powerful

Nat Torkington asked recently Is
"Open Source" Now Completely Meaningless
. Certainly not; in fact,
there are several reasons this label is still valid and important.
I'm a pragmatist, so I'm not going to wave any flags or sing any
anthems to argue this, just point out what has worked and continues to
work.

First of all, let's be clear about what "open source" means. Software
is 'open source' when it is issued under a license compliant with the
Open Source Definition. Nothing any clueless or malevolant corporate
marketeer does can change that, because the term originated in the
open-source developer community and only we have the authority to
redefine it.

Brent Williams gives the best open source presentation ever?

That seems to be the opinion of Stephen Walli in this blog posting.

I just finished reading Made To Stick, a book recommended to me by my trendspotting wife Amy, and it's quite obvious that Brent has both a command of the facts, an understanding of the context, and a gift for relating them in ways that are simple, unexpected, concrete, and other ways that make the ideas stick. It is wonderful (and refreshing) to see a presentation that is at once so right on the facts and so complete in its explanation. Great work, Brent!

Open Source and Open Standards

For some time, the term "Open Standard" has been gaining in market popularity. Unlike Open Source, which has had a concrete definition for almost ten years, the term Open Standard was merely a feel-good term with no actual technical meaning. Nevertheless, decades of poor experiences with proprietary standards (or no standards at all) contrasted with the dramatic successes of using IETF and W3C standards such as TCP/IP and HTTP have caused IT buyers to consider standards alongside product price and performance when making IT investment decisions.

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.

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