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Archive for January, 2009

Care and feeding of an open source project

A nice how-to-think-through the creation of a good open source project.

Bottom line conclusion: strive to be Open in everything you do, every LOC, every process, not just having available source — if you’re not doing that you are not getting all of the great benefits of Open Source which is the REAL reason why you do it, to achieve vibrant communities that feed off each other and get stronger because of it. If you’re mainly just talking to yourself (in stage 1), figure out how to maximize the stage 2.

If you have an open source project, think about how to grow a community of users and a community of developers. The latter is pretty darn hard, but a pretty rewarding thing to achieve.

I could have written this more simply — open source code is great, open everything is better. Hopefully this is useful to some new software companies out there, as well as some developers. The main idea here is, think community, not code. It’s everything — and when you do that, THAT is when you actually reap the benefits of open source. Otherwise the only real benefit you are getting is freedom to debug/fork, which is only a very small part of the equation.

via | How Open Source Is Your Open Source?.

A Shared Culture

A Creative Commons video directed by Jesse Dylan.

more about "A Shared Culture ", posted with vodpod

Mozilla’s Chris Blizzard on open video

Mozilla’s Director of Evangelism, Chris Blizzard writes about why open video is important.

The result of that has been an explosion of creativity and investment from single individuals all the way up to the largest companies. Anyone can have an impact and anyone can affect the technology direction of the web. Because anyone can build tools without permission that speak the lingua franca of the web, you can find tools to do just about anything. It’s a truly vibrant marketplace.

There’s one exception to this: video on the web. Although videos are available on the web via sites like Youtube, they don’t share the same democratized characteristics that have made the web vibrant and distributed. And it shows. That centralization has created some interesting problems that have symptoms like censorship via abuse of the DMCA and an overly-concentrated audience on a few sites that have the resources and technology to host video. I believe that problems like the ones we see with youtube are a symptom of the larger problem of the lack of decentralization and competition in video technology – very different than where the rest of the web is today.

Read more.

via Christopher Blizzard · why open video?.

Go Ogg, go!

Mozilla contributes $100,000 to fund Ogg development – Ars Technica

Mozilla has given the Wikimedia Foundation a $100,000 grant intended to fund development of the Ogg container format and the Theora and Vorbis media codecs. These open media codecs are thought to be unencumbered by software patents, which means that they can be freely implemented and used without having to pay royalties or licensing fees to patent holders. This differentiates Ogg Theora from many other formats that are widely used today.

via Mozilla contributes $100,000 to fund Ogg development – Ars Technica.

British schools look at open source

In its second major open source story in a week, the BBC looks at the questions surrounding open source adoption in the UK’s schools and universities. A good portion of the article is spent on the notion that open source software doesn’t really save money because there are (re)training and migration costs associated with any new technology.

For once, it seems like a mainstream reporter asked a good follow up question.

Another issue frequently raised is that of technology lock-in, one of the biggest arguments used by open source advocates as to why Windows is still prevalent.

“Something that isn’t always taken into account when calculating software procurement costs, is the ongoing costs costs arising from licensing or technology lock-in,” said Mr Gavigan

Mr Gavigan felt that the free nature of open source software sometimes worked against it.

“Announcing you have spent amazing sums of money trying to tackle a problem has more impact with your audience than saying you have used a free solution. There is an unfortunate myth that if it doesn’t cost anything, it isn’t worth anything” he said.

via BBC NEWS | Technology | Open source question for schools.

Why does Google open source its desktop gadgets?

From the Google Open Source Blog:

The Google Desktop team has been steadily releasing our Desktop gadget (widget) creations as Open Source for the past few years. If you check out this list, you can see most of the official Google created gadgets are actively maintained by the Google Desktop developer community. We had many good reasons for opening this code for the community:

  • Source code can be a valuable learning tool. The gadgets not only show you how to develop Desktop gadgets, integrate with Google APIs, but also provide other tidbits of knowledge such as how to calculate phases of the moon or StarDates.
  • The images and graphics are also Open Sourced. Being an engineer, I know how frustrating it is to work hard on an application only to have it dismissed because of hand-drawn stick figures and shapes. We hope people can take advantage of our graphic designers’ talents. If you’re a fan of clocks, I have something right up your alley.
  • We get warm fuzzy feelings by simply supporting the cause. It fosters a spirit of openness and collaboration between the team and developer community.

via Google Open Source Blog: Open Sourcing Google Desktop Gadgets.

On software patents and the need for reform

The Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, D.C., recently held a conference on software and business method patents, and while there wasn’t unanimity, there was general agreement that the current system is dysfunctional and in need of reform.

This has been Red Hat’s position for a long time, and yet again, we see that conventional wisdom is finally catching up to us. Slowly, but surely, truth is happening.

From the Red Hat News Blog, here’s part of an account of the conference from Rob Tiller, Red Hat Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, IP

At a minimum, history suggests that patents are not a significant incentive to innovation in the software field. As I pointed out in my remarks at the conference, the Federal Circuit case law finding software to be patentable mostly dates from the mid-1990s, and the software patent explosion has occurred in the last ten years or so. However, a great deal of software now in everyday use was created earlier. Free and open source software programs such as GNU Emacs, GCC, and Linux date from the 1980s and early 1990s. Some of the most widely used proprietary software programs, like Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Word, and Oracle were released in the early 1980s. There’s no reason to think that the developers of those and other successful software programs would have been more innovative if they could have obtained patents.

It is theoretically possible that some software developers today are motivated by the hope of a new patent, but the likelier impact of our current patent system is to distract developers with anxieties about being sued over preexisting patents. We know beyond question that the the incentives of the patent system are not encouraging free and open source software developers. A patent entitles the holder to exclude others from making, using, and selling an invention. FOSS developers don’t want to exclude others this way – they want to share their code – and so FOSS developers in principle have no interest in obtaining patents.

via Red Hat News | Brookings Conference on Software and Business Method Patents Highlights Need for Reform.

Birth of a meme

The idea that Barack Obama is the first “open source president” seems to be spreading. It’s based on the way he ran his campaign, the transition site, and the participation sought by

This is the latest mainstream paper to take up the notion, a column by Errol Louis in the New York Daily News.

Barack Obama isn’t just America’s first black President. He’s also our first “open-source” President, a leader willing to let anybody and everybody figure out how, when and where they want to get involved.

This goes way beyond urging citizens to volunteer in their communities, as Obama did the day before the inauguration. Our new President, the Community-Organizer-in-Chief, is radically redefining political participation so that followers can do as much or as little as they choose.

The “open-source” strategy was popularized by computer software companies. Instead of creating and selling a copyrighted program that costs millions to dream up, some firms simply give away the basic program and invite anybody to improve on it.

The result is programs that improve by leaps and bounds. And Obama has applied the idea to politics.

via President Barack Obama and his fans may have changed politics forever.

Lessig schools Colbert on remixing

Lawrence Lessig recently appeared on The Colbert Report to explain the ideas in his new book, Remix.

Update: Ha!  Viacom took down the YouTube link.

I should have linked directly to Comedy Central, I guess.

Michael Tiemann talks about open source and government

Michael Tiemann is a true open source pioneer and Red Hat’s VP of Open Source Affairs. He recently spoke to the BBC about open source principles applied to government.

So just how receptive will the 44th President will be to the idea of a implementing the workings of a new government around open standards?

“The concept of open source is going to become an undercurrent to almost everything this administration does,” declared the OSI’s President Michael Tiemann.

“The American concept of democracy is not just of the people and by the people but with the people.”

He said we have already seen a commitment to this open philosophy throughout President Obama’s election campaign.

“I think what we will see now is a maturation in America and around the world of an understanding of the open source model.”

via BBC NEWS | Technology | Calls for open source government.

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