Recently in Openness Category

My dissertation abstract

| Permalink

Open Access Repositories in the Cultural Configuration of Disciplines
Applying Actor-Network Theory to Knowledge Production by Astronomers and Philosophers of Science

This qualitative study provides an understanding of the role of self-archived disciplinary open access repositories in the cultural configuration of scholarly disciplines. It examines the implications of the technological and organizational layers of access tools and open access repositories and researchers' lived experiences and perceptions layer on researchers' localized knowledge production context and the construction of disciplinary knowledge production contexts. The actor-network theory, which posits that technological and social actors reciprocally affect each other, is applied to compare and contrast the information practices of two groups of researchers: the use of arXiv by astronomers, and the use of PhilSci by philosophers of science. Six astronomers and five philosophers of science were identified through purposeful selection. The interviews with the researchers were conducted over a period of five months, ranging in length between 40-75 minutes. Primary documentary evidence, describing open access repositories and access tools, is also used for the analysis. The findings show that the open access repositories, the access tools, and researchers' individual knowledge production contexts are co-constructed as researchers search, discover and access scholarly artifacts. Open access has impacted researchers' knowledge production by realigning the existing processes and by instigating the emergence of new actors and constructs. Four themes emerge as researchers articulate their perceptions about the value and the role of open access: impact on scholarly process, impact on scholarly output, integration with scholarly context, and democratization of the scholarly discourse. Congruent with the domain-analytic approach, two distinct socio-technological models emerge. Astronomers perceive arXiv as important and critical in their scholarly information practices, with a central role in their discipline. However, philosophers of science perceive PhilSci as having a limited value in their scholarly information practices and rather minimal role in their discipline. The properties of disciplinary cultures, such as the mutual dependence between researchers and the task uncertainty in a specific discipline, are implicated in the appropriation of the open access repositories and access tools at individual and disciplinary level. The socio-technological co-constructionist approach emerges as a viable theoretical and methodological framework to explicate complex socio-technological contexts.

Done with my dissertation

| Permalink

This past Tuesday I passed my dissertation defense and presented my public dissertation this afternoon. Yes, I'm all done! :) Hopefully now I will have more time to keep writing here.

Dissertation title:
Open Access Repositories in the Cultural Configuration of Disciplines:
Applying Actor-Network Theory to Knowledge Production by Astronomers and Philosophers of Science

Open Content Alliance Rises to the Challenge of Google Print

| Permalink

Open Content Alliance Rises to the Challenge of Google Print


October 3 , 2005 — What a great idea! Why didn’t we think of that? Google Print’s ambitious effort to digitize the world’s book literature has inspired others to initiate their own effort. And, with the Google Print program caught in the snag of a copyright lawsuit, the sight of a relay race handoff keeps hope burning for a brighter digital future. The just announced Open Content Alliance (OCA; creates an international network of academics, libraries, publishers, technological firms, and a major search engine competitor to Google—all working on a new mass book digitization initiative. The goal of the effort is to establish a flexible, open infrastructure for bringing large collections of digitized material into the open Web. Permanently archived digital content, which is selected for its value by librarians, should offer a new model for collaborative library collection building, according to one OCA member. While openness will characterize content in the program, the OCA will also adhere to protection of the rights of copyright holders.

OCA founding members include the Internet Archive; Yahoo! Search; Hewlett-Packard Labs; Adobe Systems; the University of California; the University of Toronto; the European Archive; the National Archives (U.K.); O’Reilly Media, Inc.; and Prelinger Archives. The Internet Archive (, which is led by Brewster Kahle, will provide hosting and administrative services for a single, permanent repository. Technological and some financial support will come from Adobe and Hewlett-Packard. Yahoo! Search will supply initial search engine access as well as technological support and some funding.

Yahoo launches Creative Commons search

| Permalink

From Yahoo launches Creative Commons search:

The Yahoo Search for Creative Commons makes it easier to locate Web content with a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that offers flexible copyrights for creative works. The group builds upon the traditional "all rights reserved" form of copyright to create a voluntary "some rights reserved" copyright, according to Creative Commons. Tools from Creative Commons are free and the organization offers its own search engine.

Internet Archive to build alternative to Google

| Permalink

From Internet Archive to build alternative to Google:

Ten major international libraries have agreed to combine their digitised book collections into a free text-based archive hosted online by the not-for-profit Internet Archive. All content digitised and held in the text archive will be freely available to online users.

Two major US libraries have agreed to join the scheme: Carnegie Mellon University library and The Library of Congress have committed their Million Book Project and American Memory Projects, respectively, to the text archive. The projects both provide access to digitised collections.

The Canadian universities of Toronto, Ottawa and McMaster have agreed to add their collections, as have China's Zhejiang University, the Indian Institute of Science, the European Archives and Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt.

About the Potential of E-democracy

| Permalink

Very interesting thoughts and ideas. Certainly, in the past technology has been a great source of change; maybe the technologies of today that embody the concept of openness could initiate another socio-economical-political change across the globe.

About the Potential of E-democracy

This paper develops a reflection on the potential of E-democracy to strengthen society's democratization exploring historically and technically the possibilities of cooperative organizations. From Singer's historical view about the rise of capitalism it is conjectured that Internet and E-democracy could be the technological innovations capable to trigger off the creation of a virtual network of cooperative organizations and thereby the development of a new economic system, based more on humanitarian values than the present ones.

Is Open Source the new cell phone?

| Permalink

From Is Open Source the new cell phone?:

Or Internet? Or Operating System?

Flash forward to 25 years from now – will we look back in disbelief at a time when people didn't completely trust Open Source? When all of the dominant technologies in our lives are built on Open Source models (if they aren't already) what will the history books say about the slow adoption rates of Open Source at the turn of the century? The answer won't be available for some time, but what we can do is examine the question.

Results from a survey conducted by VA Software Corporation (NASDAQ: LNUX) has revealed that executive resistance to Open Source may be hindering greater adoption of Open Source development methods for internal software development. As a result, many enterprises are failing to capitalize on the benefits of Open Source development processes and techniques.

presenting at ASIS&T 2004

| Permalink

Whoever is reading this, just to let you know that I will be presenting at the Annual ASIST&T Conference "ASIST 2004 Annual Meeting; "Managing and Enhancing Information: Cultures and Conflicts" (ASIST AM 04), " in Providence, RI, on November 16th, 2004, at 5:30p-7:00p.

As a part of a panel titled Diffusion of Knowledge in the Field of Digital Library Development: How is the Field Shaped by Visionaries, Engineers, and Pragmatists?, I’ll be “theorizing on the implication of open source software in the development of digital libraries”.

Will you be there?

Panel Abstract:
“Digital library development is a field moving from diversity and experimentation to isomorphism and homogenization. As yet characterized by a high degree of uncertainty and new entrants in the field, who serve as sources of innovation and variation, they are seeking to overcome the liability of newness by imitating established practices. The intention of this panel is to use this general framework, to comment on the channels for diffusion of knowledge, especially technology, in the area of digital library development. It will examine how different communities of practice are involved in shaping the process and networks for diffusion of knowledge within and among these communities, and aspects of digital library development in an emerging area of institutional operation in the existing library institutions and the specialty of digital librarianship. Within a general framework of the sociology of culture, the panelists will focus on the following broader issues including the engagement of scholarly networks and the cultures of computer science and library and information science fields in the development process and innovation in the field; involvement of the marketplace; institutional resistance and change; the emerging standards and standards work; the channels of transmission from theory to application; and, what 'commons' exist for the practitioners and those engaged with the theoretical and technology development field. The panelists will reflect on these processes through an empirical study of the diffusion of knowledge, theorizing on the implication of open source software in the development of digital libraries, and the standardization of institutional processes through the effect of metadata and Open Archive Initiative adoption.

The panel is sponsored by SIG/HFIS and SIG/DL”

Educationists Hail Open Source

| Permalink

From Educationists Hail Open Source:

"There is a growing belief that the wide-ranging benefits of ICT can be delivered to Africa's tertiary education sector only through the strategic adoption of open standards, free and open source software, and open content."

To the list I would also add open communication as an enabling process. Also, the above is not only true for Africa, but for the rest of educational systems throughout the world as well.

Richard Stallman on The great divide between free and open source software:

Without these freedoms, using software presents people with ethical dilemmas. If a neighbour sees you running a program, realises it would be useful and asks for a copy, what do you do? If the program isn’t free, you have to choose between two evils: either be a bad neighbour by not helping, or violate the software licence. The latter is the lesser evil, he argued, because the organisation supplying the software has already done something bad to you by supplying proprietary software, but you would still be going back on your promise. Furthermore, you are spreading more copies of non-free software that will present a similar dilemma to the recipients. The answer, said Stallman, is to only use free software.

BBC launches open-source video technology

| Permalink

From BBC launches open-source video technology:

The corporation has gone to great lengths to avoid any patent problems, and has used tried and tested techniques that have prior art. "We are reviewing the literature and will code round the problems as they arise."

To protect the software and the techniques used to develop it, the BBC has taken out its own defensive patents, said Davies, and is releasing the software under the Mozilla licence to ensure "that those patents are licensed for free, irrevocably, for ever."

The terms of the licence mean that Dirac could be used in open source software, said Davies, or in proprietary software in such a way that the company producing that software would not have to divulge their source code.

This is great news! Needless to say, this means fewer restrictions for innovation and development of new ideas and tools. The resulting ripple effect could encourage more open video communication because independent video producers will not have to carry the cost burden of their tools.

Open Source and Open Standards

| Permalink

Open Source and Open Standards provides a brief 'compare and contrast' between open source and open standards, and the pros and cons associated with each concept and practical implementations.

From PC Pro: News: UN body promises greater recognition for open source licencing:

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is promising greater recognition of Free and Open Source software licensing in a bid to balance the needs of copyright owners and the public.
A group of Non-Governmental Organisations led by the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech) successfully lobbied WIPO in its 'Geneva Declaration', resulting in a 'development agenda' that includes alternatives such as the GPL.
The group had also spent some time documenting WIPO meetings in order for the public to be better informed of the trademark, copyright, and patent policies being adopted that affect their every day lives.

Genome Model Applied to Software

| Permalink

Genome Model Applied to Software:

Open-source developers attempting to reverse-engineer the mysteries of private networking software turn to genomics research. They're applying algorithms developed by biologists to decipher the secrets of closed networks.

Do Open Access Articles Have a Greater Research Impact?

| Permalink

This paper (Do Open Access Articles Have a Greater Research Impact?) reports its findings that "freely available articles do have a greater research impact. Shedding light on this category of open access reveals that scholars in diverse disciplines are both adopting open access practices and being rewarded for it."

The findings of this paper have just confirmed what seems to be an obvious argument: the more open the accessibility to articles is, the more they will be used, and thus they ought to have greater impact in research and practice.

An additional question that needs to be addressed in this context is the overall impact of articles published in open access journals. It is quiet possible that articles published in open access journals might be able to shift the focus of a discipline or a field of study because of their wider availability and accessibility.

Political Agnosticism Open Source, Politics of Contrast

| Permalink

Political Agnosticism Open Source, Politics of Contrast is a MUST read article on the socio-economical, political and legal issues regarding the concepts of openness when looked through the 'open source' prism, and its interrelatedness to innovation, creativity, and free speech.

FOSS, of course, beholds a complex political life despite the lack of political intention; nonetheless, I argue that the political agnosticism of FOSS shapes the expressive life and force of its informal politics.

FOSS gives palpable voice to the growing fault lines between expressive and intellectual property rights, especially in the context of digital technologies. While free speech and property rights are often imagined as linked and essential parts of our American liberal heritage, the social life of FOSS complicates this connection while providing a window into how liberal values such as free speech take on specific forms through cultural-based technical practice: that of computer hacking.
The technological potential for unlimited programmable capabilities melds with what is seen as the expansive ability for programmers to create. For programmers, computing in a dual sense, as a technology and as an activity, becomes a total realm for the freedom of creation and expression.

In essence, computing is understood and experienced (sometimes reflectively, other times implicitly) by FOSS hackers as the very micro-sphere for the unfettered circulation of thought, expression, and action that freedom within the macro-sphere FOSS seeks to achieve through licenses.

open source comming to hardware

| Permalink

Open source comming to hardware:

"Can the open-source model be extended beyond software? It already has. In speaking today with Indian scholar Deepak Phatak, I learned about the "Simputer," introduced in 1998 and licensed under the Simputer General Public License, an open-source license developed for hardware."

Why The Open-Source Model Can Work In India

| Permalink

The following article (Why The Open-Source Model Can Work In India) presents and interesting viewpoint about the coexistence between propriety and open source software. Note the "j-factor" and "g-factor".

In fact, Phatak thinks U.S. programmers' open-source approach has changed the world. "Americans may not realize this, but the [general public license] is one of their greatest contributions to the world," he says, explaining that the GPL allows open-source software to coexist with proprietary software.

He considers the coexistence crucial. "The whole world can't depend on open source," the scholar acknowledges. Moving forward, the software world will consist of both those who develop proprietary code and those who develop open-source code. The success of this model depends upon two things--what he calls the "g-factor" and the "j-factor."

"Proprietary vendors should avoid the g-factor and not become too greedy, otherwise people will choose open source," Phatak says. "And open-source developers should avoid the j-factor and not become jealous that someone else might be profiting from their work. They should be delighted that people are using it."

open source for hardware

| Permalink

The following article Try open source for hardware is a clear explanation of the potential benefit of implementing open source to hardware. While we see the open source hardware implemented in various PC technologies (via open protocols and open standard interfaces), the printer and printing industry is not there yet. The article clearly articulates the benefit to the consumers if printer cartridges are made standard across various vendors. It should drive the crazy cartridge prices down.

Hidden costs of open source

| Permalink

Upon reading Hidden costs of open source one starts wondering as to what are the 'hidden costs' the article insinuates? The author suggests that the cost associated with learning how to use (install, maintain, and run) a particular software is a hidden cost.

"There we are. Cost again. If it's so easy to use and it is reliable (one assumes it's reliable since apparently Nasa is using it to run mission critical applications, although that would put me off becoming an astronaut), why am I asked to shell out $1,500 for entry-level support? And support costs can go as high as $62,400 - hardly a cheap option."

But this is nothing new with either commercial packages or open source software. Using any software that is complicated requires learning and maintaining, independently if it is closed or open source. The expense of learning and maintenance hardly classifies as 'hidden cost'. And guess what, you don't have to by the support from the actual developers of the open source. You can learn it on your own and do it yourself, or hire other competitive training and support consultants. Sometimes you wonder why this article is even published as a serious discussion point. Hmm…

the social construction of Unix, C, and Linux

| Permalink

From Unix's founding fathers:

"It is that interplay between the technical and the social that gives both C and Unix their legendary status. Programmers love them because they are powerful, and they are powerful because programmers love them. David Gelernter, a computer scientist at Yale, perhaps put it best when he said, “Beauty is more important in computing than anywhere else in technology because software is so complicated. Beauty is the ultimate defence against complexity.” Dr Ritchie's creations are indeed beautiful examples of that most modern of art forms."

My emphasis in bold; couldn't have said it better. After all, we knew that coders and programmers are not "lone scientists". :)

finding open source code

| Permalink

From IST Results - Swift searching for open source:

Finding the open source code you need can often seem like searching for a needle in a haystack. But with the development of the AMOS search engine finding your way through today’s maze of software code has just become considerably easier.
Aimed at programmers and system integrators but with the potential to be used by a broader public, the AMOS system applies a simple ontology and a dictionary of potential search terms to find software code, packages of code and code artefacts rapidly and efficiently. In turn it assists open source program development through making the building blocks of applications easier to find and re-use.

socio-political and economical twist to open source

| Permalink

Personal view: Open source may be next business revolution reviews the new book "The Success of Open Source" by Stevens Weber, a professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley.

Have not read this book yet, but it seems like interesting reading from this article. Here are some excerpts:

"His claim, and it's a bold one, is that this isn't just a good way of developing software, it's a new way of organising businesses. Open-source software breaks the links between developing a product and owning a product, which is the way business has traditionally organised itself. That could have startling consequences.
It's rare to find a professor of politics discussing software. "People in academic subjects are very conservative about their disciplines," Weber says. "So people are intrigued, but also a little bit nervous about an approach like this."

"Think back to the invention of the steam engine. By the standards of the time, building a railway was so complicated and so costly that none of the existing organisational forms could handle it. So the joint-stock company and the stock exchange rose to prominence. Something similar may be happening now."

Alan Kay's food for thought regarding personal computing

| Permalink

Alan Kay's food for thought as reported in A PC Pioneer Decries the State of Computing, regarding personal computing:

But I was struck most by how much he thinks we haven't yet done. "We're running on fumes technologically today," he says. "The sad truth is that 20 years or so of commercialization have almost completely missed the point of what personal computing is about."

But what about all those great things he invented? Aren't we getting any mileage from all that? Not nearly enough, Kay believes. For him, computers should be tools for creativity and learning, and they are falling short. At Xerox PARC the aim of much of Kay's research was to develop systems to aid in education. But business, instead, has been the primary user of personal computers since their invention. And business, he says, "is basically not interested in creative uses for computers."

Note the emphasis that computers could/should have been used more for creative process and learning. The potential is there, however, the social construction of the computing technologies has been mostly lead by commercial goals. Thus, the interplay of computing technology and social structures has mostly served commercial interest and less so with the potential of creativity, inventions and innovation.

The question arises then how to get to more creative use of technology for learning and novel ways of innovations? Open source computing perhaps, where computing tools geared more towards learning that act as stimuli for creative innovation. But then, anything creative that can make money is imprisoned within the commercial realm and looses it potential for learning and creativity. A way needs to be found such that creativity is left to bloom within its realm free from commercialization. Proprietary software (due to being in closed environment) is responsible for slowing down innovation and creativity. I would say: the way is towards open computing …

Open Source as competitive Weapon

| Permalink

Note how in the passage below (from Open Source as Weapon) the argument is made that the competition soon will move away from the actual code (everyone would have access to the same software code) and into its usage and integration in a particular context.

"Experts tick off compelling reasons why a vendor of closed-source software might release code: to make the product more ubiquitous, speed development, get fresh ideas from outside the company, to complement a core revenue stream, foster a new technology -- and to stymie a competitor.

In fact, giving away some free company IP can go a long way toward making someone else's IP worth beans.

Martin Fink, author of "The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source," notes that, while all commercial software decreases in value over time, open source drastically speeds the process. The huge community of developers working together can produce a competitive open source product fast, and they'll add features for which a closed-source vendor would want to charge extra.

Finally, customers can acquire the software at no cost, even though they may pay for customization, integration and support."

Papers on the Information (Commons) Society

| Permalink

Openness, Publication, and Scholarship

| Permalink

Openness, Publication, and Scholarship is an interesting philosophical perspective attempting to frame publications and scholarship within the various concepts of openness such as "open access", "open data", "open source", "open entry", and "open discourse".

To this I like to modify "open data" with "open content", since content has broader scope than data, and perhaps add "open communication" as the functional link between "open access" and "open discourse".

A Really Open Election - via open source

| Permalink

In A Really Open Election CLIVE THOMPSON makes his point that only open source e-voting systems can be trusted for elections.

I made the same argument back last year in the following blog entries: e-voting systems must be open source, and e-voting systems ought to be open source.

From Adam Smith to Open Source

| Permalink

From From Adam Smith to Open Source:

"The Internet is a manifestation of the validity of Adam Smith's theories, as is the growth of Linux, itself, Young argued. The way in which the Internet works and was created is as a distributed system to which multiple self-interests contributed. This resulted in something that was better than any one individual company or government could have ever created."

"Operating-system adoption is driven by the availability of applications, according to Young, which is something that, in early days of its existence, Linux did not have. That said, he added, it was the Internet, itself, with applications like the Apache Web Server, DNS and Sendmail -- all free and open source endeavors -- that serve as further proof of Adam Smith's theory is applied to the growth of the free and open source software movement. "

"The Internet was the killer app that drove the adoption of Linux," said Young."

No comments... the argument is self explanatory.

The qualitative study (Scacchi, 2002) I have selected to critique is published in an electrical engineering oriented scholarly peer-review journal. The author is aware of his quantitative oriented audience and thus from the very beginning sets the expectations that the study is “… not about hypothesis testing or testing the viability of a perspective software engineering methodology or notational form” (p. 24). Similarly to Lincoln and Guba (1985) in defining naturalistic inquiry in terms of what it is not, Scacchi deems it necessary to define a qualitative research in terms that it is not quantitative research. The tensions emerging from the struggle to present non-quantitative type study to a quantitative expecting audience are pervasive throughout the article. Because of these tensions, in the attempt not to alienate his audience, the author has either decided to take many shortcuts—showing in the lack of proper definition and utilization of qualitative methods; or, the author himself is in the process of becoming familiar with various qualitative methods. In the rest of this paper I will concentrate on these struggles, attempts, and what could have been done better, not forgetting that maybe what the author has done is a purposefully chosen middle ground because the audience was not prepared for the full switch from quantitative to qualitative methodology and methods.

The core of this article is to understand the nature and the processes around requirements for the development of open source software (Scacchi, p. 24). Since the open source development framework is a new approach to software development, the author rightfully suggests qualitative methods for doing so: “… investigation of the socio-technical processes, work practices and community forms found in the open source software development. The purpose of this investigation, over several years, is to develop narrative, semi-structured (i.e. hypertextual) and formal computational models of these processes, practices and community forms” (p. 24). The preceding quote also suggest a mix method approach where the findings of the qualitative part of the study (i.e. ‘investigation’) would inform the quantitative part in building computational models. However, this article is restricted to the investigative part of the effort.

12 Reasons for Growth of Open Source

| Permalink

From Netscape Co-Founder's 12 Reasons for Growth of Open Source:

  • "The Internet is powered by open source."
  • "The Internet is the carrier for open source."
  • "The Internet is also the platform through which open source is developed."
  • "It's simply going to be more secure than proprietary software."
  • "Open source benefits from anti-American sentiments."
  • "Incentives around open source include the respect of one's peers."
  • "Open source means standing on the shoulders of giants."
  • "Servers have always been expensive and proprietary, but Linux runs on Intel."
  • "Embedded devices are making greater use of open source."
  • "There are an increasing number of companies developing software that aren't software companies."
  • "Companies are increasingly supporting Linux."
  • "It's free."


| Permalink


"(AGI) - Rome, Feb. 25 - In order to promote innovation, we need to set up new "open source" models and solutions and projects that are aimed at developing specific solutions for SMEs in Italy and the Public Administration. These projects, as surveys by the Observatory Digital Cities (OCID), Rur and Censis reveal, indicate that the public administration can act as a driving force, by experimenting with and adopting innovative solutions."

Spreading the Open Source Gospel to the Masses

| Permalink

From Spreading the Open Source Gospel to the Masses:

Some highlights:

  • Make OSS GUI-based
  • Include Everything Needed to Install and Run
  • Turn Applications Into Suites
  • Simplicity is the Key

Researcher tests open source

| Permalink

In Researcher tests open source ZDNet's Paul Festa provides a very thoughtful report on Walt Scacchi's involvement with open source from research perspective. The article reports the finding of a 10 year long research effort.

"So what does your research say about the effectiveness of open-source development?

One thing we find with respect to participation is that in a couple of other surveys, 60 percent of open-source software developers who show up as core contributors tend to be contributors to two to 10 other projects. Once you've established a reputation of expertise in a certain area, you can take that to another project, or conversely, people seek out your expertise, because you know how to do certain kinds of things. The overall dynamic that starts to emerge is that there's a social mechanism for the creation of critical mass that lets these projects coalesce and come together, so systems can grow and evolve at rates that far exceed what's predicted by good software practice. Software engineering predicts that projects grow by the inverse square law, meaning that initial growth is fast. It then slows down, and then, with a project shift, you get steady growth.

But in the more successful open-source projects, you get a hockey stick (curved line) on your graph--a longer period of slow growth, then critical mass starts to kick in, and the growth curve starts to shoot up in a greater-than-linear growth rate."

socio-technological; actor-network theory, open source

| Permalink

I just came across some interesting pieces on the social aspects of open source software and actor-network theory as a tool to investigating the socio-technological attributes of information and information structures around us. Felix Stalder presents challenging thoughts in Open Source as a social principle and Theories of Socio-Technologies.

open source politics?

| Permalink

From Clark Campaign Going Open Source:

"Clark's technology team announced Monday the launch of Clark TechCorps, an initiative to build a suite of free, open-source applications for campaigns and elections."

"The project will organize volunteers to write software for the Clark campaign and release their work under open-source licenses."

""Open source for us symbolizes organizational transparency. We really feel that it's important that all development we do has this methodology behind it," said Clark TechCorps project manager Josh Hendler."

Free software to aid poor doctors

| Permalink

From Free software to aid poor doctors:

"A group of open source evangelists are looking to take the program called Vista beyond the borders of the US.
They say hospitals could save money by using the free software, as well as potentially saving patients' lives."

open content, open communication everywhere!

| Permalink

From Copyright Doesn't Cover This Site:

"To prove that open sourcing any and all information can help students swim instead of sink, the University of Maine's Still Water new media lab has produced the Pool, a collaborative online environment for creating and sharing images, music, videos, programming code and texts. "
"We are training revolutionaries -- not by indoctrinating them with dogma but by exposing them to a process in which sharing culture rather than hoarding it is the norm," said Joline Blais, a professor of new media at the University of Maine and Still Water co-director.
"It's all about imagining a society where sharing is productive rather than destructive, where cooperation becomes more powerful than competition," Blais said.

Scientific Research Backs Wisdom of Open Source

| Permalink

From Scientific Research Backs Wisdom of Open Source:

Few quotes:

"There's something going on in open-source development that is different from what we see in the textbooks," says Walt Scacchi, a senior research scientist at UC Irvine's Institute for Software Research.
"There's something going on in open-source development that is different from what we see in the textbooks," says Walt Scacchi, a senior research scientist at UC Irvine's Institute for Software Research.
"Open-source is not a poor version of software engineering, but a private-collective approach to large-software systems," Scacchi said.

"SCO letter is rubbish"

| Permalink

Are they (SCO folks) out of their mind? When did it become a violation (of any sort) to share for free your knowledge, expertise and any other product that may derive from it?

From Open-Source Legal Experts Dismiss SCO's Copyright Claims:

"The second opinion is where the rubbish lies," Carey said. "While the U.S. Constitution grants Congress broad powers to protect authors and inventors, it does not grant Congress to power to prevent authors and inventors from giving their work away (or from licensing it for free on the condition that derivative works also be licensed for free). Nor has Congress ever attempted to prevent authors and inventors from giving their work away, or licensing them for free. It is not illegal, immoral or unconstitutional to be generous with IP. Heaven help us if such an intellectual-property regime ever comes to pass."

I couldn't agree more!

Intel releases Open Source Lib - OpenML

| Permalink

From Intel releases Open Source Lib - OpenML:

"VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Dec. 8, 2003 -(LinuxElectrons)- Intel Corporation researchers have released software that allows developers to build computers that can "learn" from their experience, using data to proactively improve their own accuracy and the ease with which we use them. The announcement was made today at the opening of the Neural Information Processing Systems Conference (NIPS2003)."

"The software enables computers to estimate the likelihood that something will happen by calculating how often it occurred in the past. The software can be used to enhance a wide variety of interactive and industrial computer applications -- everything from culling through huge databases of gene studies to spot promising proteins for new drugs to email systems that create a model of a person's behavior to decide how best to manage newly arriving messages on its own. The software is available through Intel's Open Source Machine Learning Library (OpenML), a toolbox of functions that helps researchers develop machine learning applications."

An interesting development indeed! And it is open source.

From Faster, Better, Cheaper: Open-source Practices May Help Improve Software Engineering:

"ARLINGTON, Va. -- Walt Scacchi of the University of California, Irvine, and his colleagues are conducting formal studies of the informal world of open-source software development, in which a distributed community of developers produces software source code that is freely available to share, study, modify and redistribute. They're finding that, in many ways, open-source development can be faster, better and cheaper than the "textbook" software engineering often used in corporate settings."

Open source genetics needed to feed the world

| Permalink

From Open source genetics needed to feed the world:

"This week Australian genetics pioneer Richard Jefferson was recognised by Scientific American, the prestigious international science magazine, as one of the 50 global technology leaders of 2003."

"His latest inventions could unleash a new Green Revolution, giving farmers, researchers and agriculture businesses across the world access to the potential of modern genetics."

"And he’s calling on the global biotechnology community to adopt open access genetics – freeing up the tools of modern genetics and biology from the shackles of excessive patenting."

(my emphasis in bold)

quality open source research resources

| Permalink

Free / Open Source Research Community presents quality open source research resources, and it is one itself as a result of having collected and organized these research articles.

A must read site for those interested in the interplay of open source software as an actor in the complex network of this thing we call society.

In SCO: GPL threatens $229B software market InfoWorld reports McBride (SCO's CEO) as stating:

"The world, especially here in America, is shifting to one that is an information society," McBride said. "In the future, is that $229 billion in software still going to be there? Or in the case of the Free Software Foundation's goal, is proprietary software going to go away?"

Well, if our society is shifting to an information society, it also means that the software 'industry' could gain even more importance in such society where the flux of information is critical to people's everyday lives.

In such case, isn't it obvious that the software industry (or should I better say the software development activities) should be also shifting? And why is it wrong if this shift is towards open source software?

McBride is actually making a good point in favor of open source software, and he does not realize it. If we have shifted towards an information society, why should an enormous amount of money be spend in developing commercial software? Instead the software could be as 'free' as the air around us (or become a world public good), and various corporations, non-profit organizations, the governments around the world, etc., can concentrate on more important activities.

In such society, software will no longer be able to provide competitive advantage. Instead, the current commercial software companies will have to reinvent themselves, and people will need to become more skilled in the way they use and integrate various open source software.

Shifts in the means of economic production have changed throughout the history. The philosophy and the economics of software development will have to change sooner or later. Maybe we are already in the midst of such shift.

which Linux distro - SuSE is a good choice

| Permalink | 1 Comment

In the past week or so I've been testing various Linux distributions to see which one fits better for my needs. For a long time I had installed (dual-boot) RedHat Linux 9.0. I have used RedHat since its earliest releases and was pleased with its stability.

However, the recent announcement by RedHat to discontinue support of its RedHad Linux products prompted me to try other distributions. I installed Mandrake 9.1 (and 9.2), Suse 8.2 (still waiting for 9.0) and obviously RedHat 9.0. Of the three, Suse (download version) appeared to be the most stable in my case, it recognized all the hardware (self build machine) with no problems, etc. While Mandrake has a lots of look and feel bells and whistles, few things didn't go well. So far in my case Suse happens to be the winner.

I also tried to install Fedora Core 1 (the 'successor'' of RedHat Linux 9.0), but couldn't get past the installation due to an error that my hard drive was full, despite the fact that Mandrake and Suse installed on the same amount of space (partition). I'll probably still check Fedora when the next release comes out.

So WIPO, why did you scrap the Open Source meeting?

| Permalink

The Register asks rather the obvious question: So WIPO, why did you scrap the Open Source meeting?

"WIPO is an international organisation dedicated to promoting the use and protection of works of the human spirit. These works - intellectual property - are expanding the bounds of science and technology and enriching the world of the arts. Through its work, WIPO plays an important role in enhancing the quality and enjoyment of life and helps create real wealth for nations."

Good so far ... and then ...

"Given its background and mandate it is surprising that it scrapped its first meeting on "open and collaborative" projects such as "open source software." After all open source software does, indeed rely on intellectual property rights. It cannot exist without them. It is, therefore, bemusing that the US Director of International Relations for the US Patent and Trademark Office apparently opposed such a meeting, claiming that such a meeting would run against the mission of WIPO to promote intellectual property rights. At least one of the major US software companies, probably beginning with the letter "M", is reported to have lobbied against the holding of such a meeting."

No comments...

Project Leopard: open source for eGovernment and schools

| Permalink

Open Source Software Institute Releases Components to eGovernment Web Services Platform; Initiates Working Group for Open Government Interoperability Standards

Great development in the open source activities for eGovernment and Education. OSSI has released Phase 1 of Leopard:

"Project Leopard is a web services application framework that provides fast, efficient access and implementation of LAMP technology for eGovernment programs. Phase 1 release of Project Leopard is now available for free download and evaluation at"

e-voting systems must be open source

| Permalink

Back in July, prompted by the's article E-voting system flaws 'risk election fraud' reporting that Diebold Election Systems's e-voting system contains certain flaws that 'risk election fraud', I said I would be more comfortable e-voting if such system is open source where the code is open for public scrutiny.

Well, the reports (Aussies Do It Right: E-Voting, also commented by slashdot) that an Australian company has done just that for the Australian election:

"While critics in the United States grow more concerned each day about the insecurity of electronic voting machines, Australians designed a system two years ago that addressed and eased most of those concerns: They chose to make the software running their system completely open to public scrutiny."

"Although a private Australian company designed the system, it was based on specifications set by independent election officials, who posted the code on the Internet for all to see and evaluate. What's more, it was accomplished from concept to product in six months. It went through a trial run in a state election in 2001."

Rep. Rush Holt's bill seems a step in the right direction for the US:

"The issues of voter-verifiable receipts and secret voting systems could be resolved in the United States by a bill introduced to the House of Representatives last May by Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey). The bill would force voting-machine makers nationwide to provide receipts and make the source code for voting machines open to the public. The bill has 50 co-sponsors so far, all of them Democrats."

Open Source Software economics

| Permalink

The Open Source Software economics article explores and presents the open source software (OSS) concept from view different perspective. An interesting read for people familiar with OSS as well as those that want to learn about.

"Open Source Software" is not a new concept; it's just recently been coined as a catchy phrase. For decades, people have routinely released source code into the wild, and told people to do what they will with it. I was doing it about 15 years ago, and many others were doing it long before me. What's different is that people consider it a movement, and a movement with some momentum -- and they do have a point, but the situation isn't as simple as it might seem."

The Digital Imprimatur

| Permalink

How big brother and big media can put the Internet genie back in the bottle

The Digital Imprimatur (via Open Access News):

John Walker, The Digital Imprimatur, September 13, 2003 (revised October 9). The co-founder of Autodesk pulls together the grounds for pessimism about the future of the openness of the internet. Excerpt: With the advent of the internet "[i]ndividuals, all over the globe, were empowered to create and exchange information of all kinds, spontaneously form virtual communities, and do so in a totally decentralised manner, free of any kind of restrictions or regulations....Indeed, the very design of the Internet seemed technologically proof against attempts to put the genie back in the bottle....Earlier I believed there was no way to put the Internet genie back into the bottle. In this document I will provide a road map of precisely how I believe that could be done, potentially setting the stage for an authoritarian political and intellectual dark age global in scope and self-perpetuating, a disempowerment of the individual which extinguishes the very innovation and diversity of thought which have brought down so many tyrannies in the past."

more nonsense: SCO attacks GPL

| Permalink | 1 Comment

I think this is the most irrational nonsense yet to come out of the SCO camp. SCO attacks open-source foundation reports on SCO as stating:

"The GPL violates the U.S. Constitution, together with copyright, antitrust and export control laws," SCO Group said in an answer filed late Friday to an IBM court filing. In addition, SCO asserted that the GPL is unenforceable.

Are they (SCO folks) out of their mind? When did it become a violation (of any sort) to share for free your knowledge, expertise and any other product that may derive from it?

Such sharing could certainly reduce the profits of commercial companies when the open source products in question are Linux, Apache, OpenOffice, etc. But, how does that violate the "U.S. Constitution, together with copyright, antitrust and export control laws"?

Apparently SCO is going for all or nothing, and this route they have taken will get them faster to nothing.

social software - what's in the name?

| Permalink

I've come across few various sites and some articles (blog entries, etc.) talking about social software. The phrase does sound interesting and the name (i.e. social software) appears to promise much more than what actually happens to be.

For example, in iCan for the Public the folks over at Many2Many state:

"The BBC's iCan is in public pre-beta, a social software project to foster social capital and democratic participation. I posted on M2M about the project back in May. (Just a little before that we were having the same power-law inspired discussion of weblog modalities we are today)."

After reviewing the iCan site, it appears to be a collaborative tool/portal where people from the UK can share personal opinions and learn from each other. A clear statement is made at the site that iCan can't be used for commercial purposes.

The common denominator of the tools termed 'social software' seems to be the ability to facilitate open collaboration among the publics or users of such software with the 'publishers/moderators' playing a facilitating role. According to this I would contend that a wide range of software packages that support collaboration have the potential to be used in a way that makes them 'social software'. For example, any software such as mailing lists managers, CMS/portals, blogging software, etc., fit the pattern. However, it is their use that makes them 'social software’ or not. Needless to say, those collaborative software packages that do not support open communication and sharing of ideas and thoughts can't be considered 'social software'.

Invest in open source, say the Danes

| Permalink

Invest in open source, say the Danes

"The ordinary market conditions for standard software will tend towards a very small number of suppliers or a monopoly," the report says. "It will only be possible to achieve competition in such a situation by taking political decisions that assist new market participants in entering the market."

An interesting thought. Instead of the profits going to few big software companies, various organizations share their cost in developing opens source software. The potential profits (for the software firms) are turned into savings (for the users of the software). Isn’t this enough of an incentive for various governments and corporations to ‘invest’ in open source? This mode of thought also urges corporations to compete at the true level of their values instead of competitive advantage due to being able to afford the right software.

Open Source Everywhere - not just in software

| Permalink | 1 Comment | 1 TrackBack

Open Source Everywhere by Wire's Thomas Goetz.

A must read article elaborating and explaining various aspects of the open source philosophy most widely apparent and spread in software development.

"We are at a convergent moment, when a philosophy, a strategy, and a technology have aligned to unleash great innovation. Open source is powerful because it's an alternative to the status quo, another way to produce things or solve problems. And in many cases, it's a better way. Better because current methods are not fast enough, not ambitious enough, or don't take advantage of our collective creative potential."

Check these open source efforts mentioned in the arrticle:


Some quotes:

"Software is just the beginning … open source is doing for mass innovation what the assembly line did for mass production. Get ready for the era when collaboration replaces the corporation."

"But software is just the beginning. Open source has spread to other disciplines, from the hard sciences to the liberal arts. Biologists have embraced open source methods in genomics and informatics, building massive databases to genetically sequence E. coli, yeast, and other workhorses of lab research. NASA has adopted open source principles as part of its Mars mission, calling on volunteer "clickworkers" to identify millions of craters and help draw a map of the Red Planet. There is open source publishing: With Bruce Perens, who helped define open source software in the '90s, Prentice Hall is publishing a series of computer books open to any use, modification, or redistribution, with readers' improvements considered for succeeding editions. There are library efforts like Project Gutenberg, which has already digitized more than 6,000 books, with hundreds of volunteers typing in, page by page, classics from Shakespeare to Stendhal; at the same time, a related project, Distributed Proofreading, deploys legions of copy editors to make sure the Gutenberg texts are correct. There are open source projects in law and religion. There's even an open source cookbook."

"Of course, for all its novelty, open source isn't new. Dust off your Isaac Newton and you'll recognize the same ideals of sharing scientific methods and results in the late 1600s (dig deeper and you can follow the vein all the way back to Ptolemy, circa AD 150). Or roll up your sleeves and see the same ethic in Amish barn raising, a tradition that dates to the early 18th century. Or read its roots, as many have, in the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, the 19th-century project where a network of far-flung etymologists built the world's greatest dictionary by mail. Or trace its outline in the Human Genome Project, the distributed gene-mapping effort that began just a year before Torvalds planted the seeds of his OS."

Why PLoS Became a Publisher (Vol 1, Issue 1)

| Permalink

Public Library of Science (PLoS) has finally published their first issue, Vol 1, Issue 1. Especially interesting is their first article/editorial Why PLoS Became a Publisher that provides the rationale for the open access to scholarly and scientific literature.


"PLoS Biology, and every PLoS journal to follow, will be an open-access publication–everything we publish will immediately be freely available to anyone, anywhere, to download, print, distribute, read, and use without charge or other restrictions, as long as proper attribution of authorship is maintained. Our open-access journals will retain all of the qualities we value in scientific journals—high standards of quality and integrity, rigorous and fair peer-review, expert editorial oversight, high production standards, a distinctive identity, and independence."

The Beginning of the End of the Internet?

| Permalink

From The Beginning of the End of the Internet?:

"The Internet as we know it is at risk. Entrenched interests are positioning themselves to control the network's chokepoints and they are lobbying the FCC to aid and abet them. The Internet was designed to prevent government or a corporation or anyone else from controlling it. But this original vision of the Internet may soon be lost. In its place a warped view that open networks should be replaced by closed networks and that accessibility can be superceded by a new power to discriminate is emerging."

Scary thoughts.... but indeed very real...

Democratizing software: Open source, the hacker ethic, and beyond

"The development of computer software and hardware in closed-source, corporate environments limits the extent to which technologies can be used to empower the marginalized and oppressed. Various forms of resistance and counter-mobilization may appear, but these reactive efforts are often constrained by limitations that are embedded in the technologies by those in power. In the world of open source software development, actors have one more degree of freedom in the proactive shaping and modification of technologies, both in terms of design and use. Drawing on the work of philosopher of technology Andrew Feenberg, I argue that the open source model can act as a forceful lever for positive change in the discipline of software development. A glance at the somewhat vacuous hacker ethos, however, demonstrates that the technical community generally lacks a cohesive set of positive values necessary for challenging dominant interests. Instead, Feenberg’s commitment to "deep democratization" is offered as a guiding principle for incorporating more preferable values and goals into software development processes."

Technology addiction makes us unwitting slaves is indeed somewhat philosophical but also a practical article with very pragmatic eye openers that touches on the contemporary issues of technological determinism vs. social constructionism discourse, especially as it pertains to the role of information technology in the information society.

The last bullet/paragraph in the story states: "Technology's promise and alluring capabilities are used to surreptitiously entrap and willingly imprison members of the information-age society instead of truly empowering them."

Perhaps the open source technologies which are usually not developed with profitability (i.e. bottom line in $$$) in mind can show that technology does not have to be entrapping and imprisoning. It is exactly this that I'm trying to argue in favor of open source software as an actor in the ecology of open source supported technology that manifests itself as an antidote to the claim that thechnologies "surreptitiously entrap and willingly imprison members of the information-age society".

Quotes from the article:

"Yet as we rush to embrace the latest and greatest gadgetry or high-tech service and satisfy our techno-craving, we become further dependent on these products and their manufacturers -- so dependent that when something breaks, crashes, or is attacked, our ability to function is reduced or eliminated. Given these frequent technical and legal problems, I'm wondering if we're as free and empowered as we've been led to believe."

"To make things worse, government practically has outsourced the oversight and definition of technology-based expression and community interaction to for-profit corporations and secretive industry-specific cartels such as the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and the Business Software Alliance. Such groups have wasted no time in rewriting the rules for how they want our information-based society to operate according to their interests, not ours."

again on SCO's 'stupid' claim

| Permalink

By far one of the best argued positions explaining the paradoxes and stupidities of SCO's claim that they 'own' Linux.

An open-source letter by Joe Firmage, a former vice president of strategy for Novell's Network Systems Group:

"OK, Sontag, fine. If you cannot inadvertently or accidentally assign your copyright, then there should be no problem in identifying exactly which portions of Linux allegedly violate SCO's rights. Simply issue a statement that identifies the offending code, stating clearly that the identification does not represent a release of rights into open source."

"The model of open science is "communistic" in the sense of community ownership--or rather community stewardship. But innumerable highly successful organizations and institutions in America are founded upon the ideal of community stewardship--including our democracy itself.
The downfall of communism was due to state control by totalitarians--an attribute embodied by today’s commercial software industry far more than by the emergent open-source science of information technology. "

MIT for free, virtually: OpenCourseWare

| Permalink

MIT for free, virtually (serendipitous link discovery via ResourseShelf)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is making its course materials available to the world for free download

"One year after the launch of its pilot program, MIT on Monday night quietly published everything from class syllabuses to lecture videos for 500 courses through its OpenCourseWare initiative, an ambitious project it hopes will spark a Web-based revolution in the way universities share information."

Let's see how far (in time and space) this ‘revolution’ will reach! Maybe, if each school does not have to (re)create the course materials from scratch, the tuition will go down! :) Or maybe someone will be making more money.

Nevertheless, in terms of information and/or knowledge sharing there ought not to be any doubt that this is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the potentials can be utilized to benefit the society in general.

fairness in search engine results - the open source factor

| Permalink

In An Open-Source Search Engine Takes Shape there is an assumed relationship between open source, open ranking, and fairness of returned results.

Currently, all existing search engines have proprietary ranking formulas, and some search engines determine which sites to index on the basis of paid rankings. Cutting said that, in contrast, Nutch has nothing to hide and has no motive to provide biased search results.
"Open source is essential for transparency," he said. "Experts need to be able to validate that it operates correctly and fairly. Only open source permits this." If only a few Web search engines exist, he said, "I don't think you can trust them not to be biased."

I think this relationship is sounds. How does one test and evaluate that indeed the opens source search engine will result in 'open ranking' algorithms and thus lead to fairness?

The next issue to be dealt with is the scope and the understanding of fairness in the context of search engines. Should fairness be understood as proportional (returned results vs. the total number of searched documents), or equal coverage of the queries even though some topics of interests might be less represented on the internet. In addition, considering that no one single search engine can cover/index the entire webspace, what would be the criteria for domain/URL inclusion for indexing?

I believe that the open source search engine might be better in fairness, but there still remain a lots of issues to be dealt with as important factors in tilting the 'fairness' one way or another.

The Age of Corporate Open Source Enlightenment

| Permalink

In The Age of Corporate Open Source Enlightenment Paul Ferris enlightens us with a fair and balanced analysis of the open source software appropriation in the corporate environment.

The ideological connotations and the analogy to the church vs. state might be overemphasis, however, the article is very insightful and brings forth the philosophical background which appear necessary in the process to contextually understand the open source software and its environment.

Open source helps education effort in Third World

| Permalink

From The Mercury News in Open source helps education effort in Third World:

"In Africa, in Asia, in much of the world -- especially in the developing nations -- open source is looking like the best way to usher in the information age. Money, flexibility and plain old independence from a monopolist's clutches are a powerful combination."

Linux Set to Break Through in Consumer Electronics

| Permalink

From Linux Set to Break Through in Consumer Electronics:

"BERLIN (Reuters) - Linux (news - web sites), the fast growing and freely available operating system, is set to be the software of choice for future televisions, set top boxes and DVD recorders, consumer electronics executives and specialists said Thursday."

The author of Linux poised to shape software and society: Development of free operating system tracing path of King James Bible attempts to link the influence that the King James Bible had on the English speaking world and the society in general with the potential that the Linux as an open source operating system can potentially influence the software development world and the society.

The analogy presented is an interesting one riding on the similarities of the collaborative writing process of the King James and the collaborative process in the development of Linux:

"The fundamental story of the Bible had existed for a thousand years by the time James and his crew took a crack at it. The information it contains is pretty much the same as all other bibles, but how that information is presented is as important. The second fact of its composition is that a committee of 50 did it. It is a monumental work of literature (in addition to its religious importance) ... and what other work of similar import was written by such a large group rather than a single brilliant author? Finally, it was open (written in compelling and accessible language available to the average person of the time) and wasn't copywrited."

"Sounds like Linux."

"While started by one man (Linus Torvalds) it has since been improved and perfected by thousands of programmers. The Linux system tells computers how to live their little silicon lives."

While the analogy is interesting it also raises a lots of questions on the appropriateness of its use. For example, it states that the Bible in English "was written" when it was a translation. There is no doubt about the benefit of one vs. collaborative effort. However, the significance of translation vs. authorship is not well explained. So, the argument is confined, limited, and based on the analogy of individual vs. collaborative effort.

Can the individual vs. collaborative effort analogy be used to imply inference that the open source OS (such as Linux) can be to the software development as the King James Bible was to the English speaking world and the society in general?

Any comments?

US Patent Office Opposes Open Source

| Permalink

Courtesy of Adina Levin's weblog BookBlog:

US Patent Office Opposes Open Source:

"Prof. Lessig reports the breathtakingly clue-deprived opinions of the USPTO on open source software.

The patent office was trying to pull the plug on a WIPO meeting that had open source on the agenda. Lois Boland, director of international relations for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is quoted as saying saying: “open-source software runs counter to the mission of WIPO, which is to promote intellectual-property rights... To hold a meeting which has as its purpose to disclaim or waive such rights seems to us to be contrary to the goals of WIPO.

Good discussion in the comments to Lessig's blog.

I wonder what the points of leverage are for USPTO accountability. When nearly 2 million people protested the FCC's policy on media consolidation, the FCC blithely ignored the protest -- but Congress advanced bills to overturn the FCC policy. Who's listening on IP policy?"

MIT's OpenCourseWare

| Permalink

MIT's OpenCourseWare project, is yet another manifestation of the philosophy of 'openness'.

In terms of use, the OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons License, which means that course materials available can be shared freely and openly for non-commercial purposes, and any derivative work should be distributed with the same licence as the one by which OpenCourseWare material is made available.


In light of the arguments presented in New front in SCO-IBM-Linux war, it appears that SCO is aware (or they should be aware) they can't win the war against IBM, Linux and open source in general.

"Start with the fact that Linux isn't as much product as it is movement. As the emblem of open source and brainchild of Linus Torvalds, Linux stands for the notion that progress is not proprietary. Given that SCO means to ration access to the secrets Linux's father set free, SCO's lawsuit is a little like locking the door on Martin Luther King Jr.'s jail cell and expecting to stop the civil rights movement."

Whether the above analogy is an appropriate one is not very important. However, it is worth noting that the 'open source movement' can't be stopped with a subpoena.

Does SCO really believe they will be able to get licensing fees from all the users of Linux? I think they know they will not be able to win this war. What is this game about then?

other facets of open source

| Permalink | 2 TrackBacks

In response to George's entry Open Source as a Social Movement I would like to add that open source should be looked beyond the software space. Open source software is just one manifestation of the open source philosophy, and the open source as a social movements is yet another manifestation of the open source philosophy--in a way more abstract than the open source software given the practical results, its products, as explained in Open Source as a Social Movement.

The 'source' in open source can mean different things to different people and contexts, depending on the level of abstraction and/or pragmatics:

  • to the software development is the code

  • to the publishing function it the content therefore the 'open content'

  • to the access function is the process of communication, therefore 'open access'

  • etc...

Independently of the various manifestations of the open source, there appear to be two important factors in trying to understand and elaborate the various manifestations: the open content and open communication, aided by the concept of translation. I have elaborated many of these items in the corresponding entries [follow the links] as well as in the following two categories: Open Content and Open Communication, The Open Source Philosophy, and Actor-Network theory & methodology.

From a more social perspective, in the open source Internet as a possible antidote to corporate media hegemony it is argued that the open source Internet, as a result of open source movement, manifests itself as a possible antidote to the corporate media hegemony, not only in the US but also throughout the world.

Open content and value creation

| Permalink

From First Monday
Open content and value creation by Magnus Cedergren:

"In this paper, I consider open content as an important development track in the media landscape of tomorrow. I define open content as content possible for others to improve and redistribute and/or content that is produced without any consideration of immediate financial reward — often collectively within a virtual community. The open content phenomenon can to some extent be compared to the phenomenon of open source. Production within a virtual community is one possible source of open content. Another possible source is content in the public domain. This could be sound, pictures, movies or texts that have no copyright, in legal terms."

Not that the "open content phenomenon can to some extent be compared to the phenomenon of open source", from another perspective perhaps it is more appropriate to look at open source as open content. I would argue that open source (as related to software) is a special case of open content. I guess my definition of open content then becomes broader than what the above article suggests in relation to media.

Open Content and Open Communication

open source is not about hackers and anarchy

| Permalink | 2 Comments | 1 TrackBack

In the July 7th, 2003 edition of HBS Working Knowledge, in The Organizational Model for Open Source, Mallory Stark interviews Siobhán O'Mahony who is an assistant professor in the Negotiation, Organizations, and Markets group at the Harvard Business School.

The article raises and discusses the possible negative implications of nonprofit organizations around the open source software activities, as well as the implications of corporate actors’ involvement in the open source software production.

In one of the responses O'Mahony states:

“Thus, hackers who contribute to the open source community are often intrinsically motivated.”

The article appears to equate to some extend the open source software production with hackers and hacker culture. While it is undeniable that ‘hackers’ have contributed greatly to the pool of open source software, open source is more than just what hackers contribute. It would not be surprising to hear that many who contribute to open source software do not consider themselves hackers, at least not in the sense and connotation the word ‘hacker’ is understood by the general public.

Even in Eric Raymond’s definition as it appears in this article, defining “hackers as those who love programming for the sake of doing it, for the sake of obsessively solving a problem”, it is hard to necessarily and exclusively equate hackers with contribution to the open source. Perhaps, many contribute to a particular open source software package for reasons (many of them) totally different than obsessiveness. Social contribution is one of them … not all contributors to open source are obsessive programmers … Besides, some who love programming do it obsessively by working for a company for a pay.

Peer recognition is purported as one of the main reason for contribution to open source. Needless to say, all people, everywhere, would like to be recognized for the work they do, whether it is open source of closed source.

Further, I’m a bit not clear as to where (and why) is the contradiction in crating nonprofit foundations to help in ‘managing’ the open source activities:

“So I suppose what can be considered to be contradictory is that many community-managed open source projects have incorporated and created nonprofit foundations with formal boards and designated roles and responsibilities”.

Open source is not about anarchy; at least it does not appear to be so. Thus, unless orderly communication, collaboration, and coordination can be achieved without a formal organizational structure, non-profit foundations can play a role to moderate the activities of the open source software productions. After all, software production requires order, planning, and understanding of roles and responsibilities, be it open source or closed source.

open source more than just software

| Permalink

May the Source Be With You presents rather a convincing case that open source is more than just about software:

"Can a band of biologists who share data freely out-innovate corporate researchers?"

"But hoarding information clashes directly with another imperative of scientific progress: that information be shared as quickly and widely as possible to maximize the chance that other scientists can see it, improve on it, or use it in ways the original discoverer didn't foresee. "The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true," reads the Albert Einstein quote inscribed on a memorial outside the National Academy of Sciences offices in Washington."

"Fortunately, a potentially revolutionary counter-trend is developing and helping science return to the ideal that Einstein extolled. A small but growing number of scientists, most of them funded by the National Institutes of Health, are conducting cutting-edge research into the most complex problems of biology not in highly secure labs but on the Internet, for all the world to see. Called "open-source biology," this work is the complete antithesis of corporatized research. It's a movement worth watching--and rooting for."

what after open processes and open content?

| Permalink

In O'Reilly Gazes Into the Future of Open Source Peter Galli presents some of O’Reilly’s thoughts about the future of the open source. What is most interesting in O’Reilly’s presentation at the Oscon conference is the recognition that the open source is more than just about software. The open source software is just one practical instance of the open source philosophy. The article is not clear about the why, how and what they mean by paradigm shift:

“The new rules governing the Internet paradigm shift are based on the fact that an open architecture inevitably leads to interchangeable parts; competitive advantage and revenue opportunities move "up the stack" to services above the level of a single device; information applications are decoupled from both hardware and software; and lock-in is based on data and not on proprietary software, he said.“

However, they are perhaps on the right track suggesting that the competitive advantage in the future will not come from the proprietary hardware and the software, but from the higher levels in the information services products. The openness inevitably will lead the competitiveness in the upper stacks of information service delivery process.

Perhaps the content will matter more as it should… but then, what happens when the open source philosophy is applied to the content as well? Where will the competitive advantage come from if dealing with open content? Perhaps the processes around the content creation, organization, delivery and sharing? How about when this process becomes ‘open process’ as well? Interestingly, some of this open process is imbedded in the open source software already… hmmm…

democracy through open source

| Permalink

From Democracy Design Workshop at New York Law School Awarded $80,000 Grant By Rockefeller Brothers Fund

"The Democracy Design Workshop ( is directed by Beth Simone Noveck, an associate professor of law at New York Law School, where she also directs the Institute for Information Law and Policy. She is a founding fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. The Workshop aims to be a meetinghouse for thinkers and practitioners who, through research, dialogue and design, explore how to use technology to strengthen democracy online and off."??

"We are delighted by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation support for our work," Noveck said. "By using cutting-edge, open-source technology for the promotion of strong democracy, we can create a tool for the exchange of best practices and ideas in collaboration and participation, helping practitioners learn from and engage with one another." Noveck added, "The Inventory is our flagship civic innovation design project. It is the knowledge base to support our civic innovation endeavors and represents precisely the kind of interdisciplinary, problem-solving work that should be part of contemporary legal education."

the next big thing: open source grid computing

| Permalink

From Teaching Computers to Work in Unison:

"The grid is widely regarded as the next stage for the Internet after the World Wide Web. The Web is the Internet's multimedia retrieval system, providing access to text, images, music and video. The promise of the grid is to add a problem-solving system."
"Our belief was that open source was the best way to maximize adoption," he said. "Globus is an infrastructure technology, and it is only going to be successful if everyone uses it. And if you're doing something that is primarily funded by the government, sharing the software seemed the most appropriate thing to do."

Apparently, the difference between grid computing and distributed computing is in the ability to provide for 'collective' problem solving.

calculations: scripts and processes as KM assets

| Permalink

In It All Adds Up the notion of calculations as knowledge assets is presented as novel and unique process in KM:

"Specifically, MathSoft is promoting the idea of using its technology to facilitate what it calls calculation management—the practice of viewing engineering calculations as knowledge assets that should be managed and reused."

Aren't the folks at CIO magazine a bit late in their 'discovery'? Mathcad calculations put up on an Intranet for a use by a community of engineers are nothing more than scripts (or processes) for performing certain functions--to produce some sort of output(s) given the set of inputs. The open source movement has been doing this for how long? :)

Relatively speaking, for a corporate culture context where knowledge (in form of scripts/calculations here) is perhaps not easily shared by individuals due to fear of loosing some advantage, this could be considered a unique knowledge management practice.

The Center of Open Source & Government

| Permalink

In my previous papers (media & communication) I tried to show that the open source concept/phenomenon and its communicative elements are innovative ideas, giving rise to open communication technology, enabling the masses to communicate free from elite’s control, possibly acting as antidotes to hegemonic ideology. To do so, I applied the constitutive view of communication, suggesting that open source is enabler of ‘free dissemination’ and open communication.

Recognizing Ranganathan’s five laws of Library Science and their underlying concepts as powerful inspirations for social change, I would like analyze the open source software, as defined by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), and its congruency with the five laws. If the underlying concepts upon which the five laws are built had such profound impact on our society, then the proponents of the open source movement can learn a thing or two. The actual definition of open source software is a lengthy one; instead, a summarized definition from the OSI’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) follows:

“Open source promotes software reliability and quality by supporting independent peer review and rapid evolution of source code. To be OSI certified the software must be distributed under a license that guarantees the right to read, redistribute, modify, and use the software freely” (The OSI).

A ‘book’ is the basic element of Ranaganathans laws: it contains objective knowledge. This calls for defining the comparative basic element of software development. Therefore, I will take the term ‘software’ to be the basic element: it contains objective knowledge. I have used the term ‘software’ loosely as it can mean a software product or software modules that can be used to build other software products. Respectively, the Five Laws of the ‘Software Library’ could be:

The First Law

Books are for use

(Ranganathan, p. 26)

Software is for use

The Second Law

Every readers his or her book
(or Books are for all)
(Ranganathan, p. 81).

Every user his or her software

(or software is for all)

The Third Law

Every book its reader.
(Ranganathan, p. 258)

Every software its user

The Fourth Law

Save the time of the reader.
(Ranganathan, p. 287)

Save the time of the user

The Fifth Law

Library is a growing organism

(Ranganathan, p. 326)

A software Library is a growing organism

Note: The American heritage Dictionary defines Library as it pertains to Computer Science in the following way: A collection of standard programs, routines, or subroutines, often related to a specific application, that are available for general use.

how blogs effect each other

| Permalink

From Blogging goes mainstream on the concept of 'hive brain':

"The way bloggers link and influence each other's thinking could lead to a collective thought process, "a kind of hive brain," said Chris Cleveland, who runs Dieselpoint..."

The analysis of the 'hive brain' concepts sounds like a perfect candidate for the actor-network theory and methodology.

A conceptual (and practical) topology would be a collection of blogs (according to some criteria) linked to each other via the http (and XML) links/referrers and trackbacks. Then, the affect/influence of a particular blog on the rest of the collection of blogs could be analyzed by tracing its residual and ongoing affect, as well as the affect onto itself as a result of being part of the topology.

Needless to say, the open content and the degree of openness of the communication links between the various blogs is of outmost importance. Without the openness the concept of blogs and blogging would not be in the realm as we know it today: blogs and blogging have a meaning in the collection of other blogs and not as isolated entities.

Defining the ingredients of actor-network and open-content open-communication

The factor 'openness'

On Open Access

| Permalink

The Open Access page at the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) presents a critical viewpoint about the need and the necessity of open access in the midst of the corporate attempt to control all major access channels.

Besides the need for open access, there is a need for open content and open communication if there is to be a viable and substantial public discourse on digital democracy.

"Open Stacks"

| Permalink | 1 Comment

'Open Stacks' is an interesting blog concerned with the promotion of information access and literacy for all.

why actor-network?
"In Social constructionism vs. technological determinism it has been suggested that the actor-network theory and its methodological framework may provide the language and the mode of explanation to elaborate in a common framework the interplay between human and non-human entities.
Most importantly, the major contribution of the actor-network theory seems to be the fact that it treats the human and non-human elements (or actors as the various element in a given topology are named in the actor-network language) alike as being able to influence each other."

"So, how do the actors in a particular topology influence each other? This is done through their links. The actor-network theory suggests that a process of translation takes place, a process that explains how and why some actors take the attributes and properties of the actors they are connected too. Thus, certain properties of one actor are transferred to other actors through their mutual links. The question arises then as to what/which properties and attributes of an actor can be transferred onto another and initiate a process of translation onto the actor it is connected too? Further, what is the role of the properties and attributes of the links in the process of translation/transfer? Which properties and attributes of the links are important to this process?"

"...the modifiable content depending on the intrinsic and external properties can be described and manifests itself in various degrees of openness. Similarly, the communication links vary in degree of their communicative properties via which the properties and the attributes of the actors are transferred and translated into other actors via inscription."

properties and attributes: links, actors, topologies
"The translation process enables an actor/entity (simple or complex) to inscribe its properties and attributes onto other actors in the pertinent topologies. This suggests that there is a movement of some sort from one actor to another. Certainly, in any given topology not all actors are able to inscribe their properties and attributes equality into other actors. Some properties and attributes are more prevalent in any given topology. What determines the strength of the attributes and the properties?"

Social constructionism vs. technological determinism
"For example, if one is to research the usability of collaboration tools in an organizational settings, the social constructionism for most part takes the view that the information and communication technologies are just tools to be used by the employees to perform their assigned tasks and that these tools do not effect the employees or the relevant social structures. On the other side, technical determinist consider the affect that these tools will have on the employees and the surrounding organizational structures resulting from their use."

As I've tried to explain in some of the previous entries, the notion of open content is an important element in the utilization of the actor-network theory and methodology to explain and elaborate how various actors in a given topology inscribe their congruent properties and attributes onto other actors. Indeed, the 'open content' as a property of an actor is itself inscribable onto other actors.

Without the possibility of open content it becomes impossible to talk about the inscription and translation process. For example, if the content of an actor (the content manifests itself as different 'thing' to different actors) exhibits characteristics of openness, it means it is modifiable as a result of outside factors (i.e. other actors) that act upon it via the many links to which it is connected. A totally closed content would be defined as a content that is not modifiable by the other actors even though they are linked to it.

A totally open content becomes as troublesome to explain and elaborate as the totally closed content. A totally open content could mean modifiability by all actors without much control and process and that might not be a desirable scenario in most instances.

Instead, most open content is subject to degrees of openness resulting from the surrounding actors linked to the actor via the links that are also subject to degrees of openness in their ability to communicate the translation and inscription properties and attributes.

The factor 'openness'

The open-source Internet?

| Permalink

In some of my previous entries I’ve suggested that the actor-network theory and methodology can be used as a mode of explanation in elaborating the interplay between social structures and information (and IT in general). The factor ‘openness’ emerges as the main ingredient in the elaboration when using actor-network theory to explain how actors in a given topology can affect other actors, and also at the same time being affected by them.

The explanatory power of the actor-network methodology relies on the fact that in the same topology both human and non-human actors (elements, structures, processes, etc.) are treated as equally able to affect and influence each other. The affect is carried via the links between the various actors attempting to inscribe their attributes and properties into other actors with congruent properties and attributes (see: Translation).

So, is the Internet open-source?
Or, a more appropriate question would be: is it possible to produce an open communication medium such as the Internet without the open-source software?

Basing this argument on the actor-network theory and methodology and the openness factor, had the software that was used to build the Internet been a closed source software hidden from outside scrutiny, the resulting product, the Internet (whether we see the Internet as a mass medium, a publishing phenomenon, a set of communication tools, etc.) would not have been as open as we see it today. Why?

To use the actor-network language and the openness factor, the closed-source software is almost totally closed in both aspects: its content and its communication. With a closed content (i.e. the code) it is much harder to build compatible and interoperable software tools and much harder to make people use it. Modification to the closed-source software is limited to a very small group of people whose agenda is driven by the bottom line: profit. This suggests that the not so open content and not so open communication about the content is indeed a stagnating force in the exchange of ideas, thoughts and opinions, and innovation in general.

The open content and open communication concepts (with their attributes and properties) are indeed positively responsible for the openness of the Internet. Whether the open-source software is directly responsible for the openness of the Internet, or both the open source software and the Internet openness are both results of the open source philosophy is not very important.

In any case, the open content and open communication concepts have inscribed their properties and attributed onto the openness of the Internet (with varying degrees depending on the various form and flavors the Internet is being used) and also onto the open source software.

The factor 'openness'

| Permalink | 4 TrackBacks

In properties and attributes: links, actors, topologies it has been suggested that the properties and attributes can be intrinsic and external.

The intrinsic properties are those that are inhibited as part of the process of the construction of an actor. For human actors these would be those properties and attributes (physical and mental) that do not change as part of the context and environment, i.e. context independent. The external properties and attributes are those that constantly change due to surrounding and environment, i.e. context dependent. Thus, the intrinsic and the external properties and attributes are not necessarily the same for all humans. However, there could be some that are common depending on the contextual situatedness of the human actor.

For non-human actors, lets take as an example an information system used in a given organizational setting. The information system comes predefined with certain functionality. Some of that functionality (usually referred as the core functionality) is not readily modifiable; it is this functionality that defines the system - its spirit, if changed than the nature of the information system has changed. Then, some other functionalities of the information system are intentionally modifiable to 'fit' the changing needs of the group/department/task that will use this particular information system. The modifications to these functionalities do not change the core nature of the system.

Further, in Translation in actor-network it is stated that "An issue of congruence and correspondence arises from the above discussion, for we can't compare an apple to an orange. In addition, no matter how actors are linked to one another, some actors just don’t get affected by the actors in the corresponding network topologies." So, for a translation to occur, i.e. the properties and attributes of one actor to be transferred and inscribed into another there must be some congruent properties and attributes.

Looking at the intrinsic and the external properties and attributes and their ability to change, content (the "what" is changed) and communication (the "means" by which the change is instigated) emerge as the congruent properties and attributes actors different actors (and definitely between human and non-human) prone to being modified and able to modify other actors through links in a given topology.

From the above it appears that an actor with its links in a relevant topology can perform upon other actors and links and be performed by other actors and links within the relevant and pertinent topology. The external content properties and attributes are those prone to being modified via the link (that in turn could also be performed upon and perform upon others). The basic properties and attributes of the links is their communicative openness: one-way link or two way links.

Also, the modifiable content depending on the intrinsic and external properties can be described and manifests itself in various degrees of openness. Similarly, the communication links vary in degree of their communicative properties via which the properties and the attributes of the actors are transferred and translated into other actors via inscription.

In Open source on hold in Oregon the Business Software Alliance, a software industry representative, claims that the Oregon state legislature encouraging the state institutions to consider open source, will "squelch software innovation, does not take into account hidden costs such as maintenance of open-source software and might actually harm the high-tech industry in Oregon."

The claim that open source with squelch innovation has been use by proprietary software makers without any viable argument or any research. If nothing more, the history has shown that open source has been a source of major innovations surrounding the Internet and beyond.

In addition, it is puzzling at best to understand why are the proprietary software makers against such legislature encouraging the consideration to use open source and not in any way mandating it?

The other point made in this article by the proprietary software makes it that such legislature "might actually harm the high-tech industry in Oregon."

Well, the proprietary software makers should realize that the competition in the real world of software development now includes a factor that was previously absent. Why not let the 'market forces' decide whether open source should be used by the various government institutions?

Among other concerns, it is precisely the issue of cost (relevant to market forces) that the Oregon bill is addressing: "Rep. Phil Barnhart, the bill's author, claimed the law is necessary to help agencies cut costs, to enable better interoperability among IT systems and to increase opportunities for Oregon's high-tech companies and workers."

It appears that the proprietary software makers’ lobbying efforts to block the use open source software in themselves are hurting innovation in software development by trying to remove from the ‘market’ a real competition.

By Mentor Cana, PhD
more info at LinkedIn
email: mcana {[at]} kmentor {[dot]} com

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Openness category.

Online, access is the previous category.

Ph.D. life, etc. is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.