Earlier this year, arguments and debates raged about whether the open source model was doomed to fail in the 21st century economics of Software As A Service (SAAS). One thread of these discussions centered around the creation of a new type of license that could effectively preserve source code availability and author attribution while denying licensees some of the freedoms enjoyed by the authors, particularly the freedom to present a user interface distinct from so-called attribution.
When I first came across the GNU General Public License in 1986, it was nothing short of an epiphany for me. Its revolutionary approach to copyright (all wrongs reversed) and the bold vision of the GNU project (to do nothing less than to make UNIX obsolete by making something that was both better and free) was as earth-shaking to me as perhaps quantum physics was to Einstein. (You don't need to tell me I'm no Einstein--I know that.)
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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.