Wed 7 Jun 2017 4:06PM

What is open source?

SC Simon Carter Public Seen by 541

Does anyone want to help?. I am currently working on content for a website soon to be launched. We've put this up for the moment, but haven't shared it, It's got a long way to go. www.just.coop/home
The green panel will be changed to have a heading of 'A Vision For a New Economy' Five Emerging Trends' one of which I have headed as 'World wide web, an open source solution'. What I now want to do is write an accessible page for the average person to help them understand the significance of open source on the future. Only problem is, I'm not entirely sure what is it's significance.
I don't want or need loads, as I say the goal is something that will make sense to the layperson, Bullet points might work well. The other four headers provisionally are 'Social enterprise, Why we are a coop. Relocalisation in a global village. The sharing & the gift economy, no money required & finally Reclaiming the commons, everyone a commoner.


Michel Bauwens Wed 7 Jun 2017 4:10PM

  • bullet point 1: open source, the sharing of knowledge, means that solutions to human and natural problems are available to all

John Ingleby Wed 7 Jun 2017 4:33PM

I would insert "freely" available to all, where "freely" doesn't necessarily mean "at no cost", but rather Richard Stallman's four freedoms:
- freedom to use the solution in any way
- freedom to investigate, research and develop the solution
- freedom to copy and share the solution on the same "free" terms
- freedom to share your modifications on the same "free" terms


Bob Haugen Wed 7 Jun 2017 4:35PM

"What is open source?" seems like the wrong title for this discussion. You seem to be asking about benefits of open source for a new economy. So I'll respond to that question.

Totally agree with @michelbauwens1 and @johningleby, for starters.

To add some other bullet points, in no particular order:
* You mentioned cooperatives and relocalization, both of which imply communities of some kind and size. If that community uses proprietary software or hardware, they can be denied or hindered or damaged by changes made by the proprietor. Egregious example, farmers can no longer legally repair their own John Deere tractors. Or PayPal stopping payments to organizations that they don't like for political reasons.
* If your community uses a suite of software, which most do, you may find it difficult or impossible to integrate it if you are blocked from modifying the software. (You may have difficulty anyway, but at least with open source, it is possible.)
* In the new world of AI and algorithmic solutions to problems, if you can't see the code, you can't trust the algorithm.


Bob Haugen Wed 7 Jun 2017 4:38PM

Yet another farmer example: you can be successfully sued it you replant the seeds you grew yourself.


Simon Carter Wed 7 Jun 2017 5:13PM

I found this quote, that I may include "The power of Open Source is the power of the people. The people rule" - Philippe Kahn What I want to convey is how open source can contribute to a new economy because it is 'a commons'. It does not seek to manufacture scarcity for profit, My real challenge is how to convey significance to the masses.


Kevin Flanagan Wed 7 Jun 2017 7:42PM

A bit of background on the differences between open source and free software.



Greg Cassel Wed 7 Jun 2017 10:54PM

Regarding the gnu.org article: the terms "open source" and "free software" are both obscure & confusing to people who aren't oriented towards the specialized meanings which different groups have "prescribed" for them.

Talk about "free software" with most folks, and I practically guarantee they'll start from entirely wrong assumptions. And, if one could somehow convince most people to associate "free software" with the goals of Free Software Foundation, then it'd become harder to distinguish "free-to-use" software when desired.

For most uses, I think that the best related term would be "open license". It's accurate, because it's through licensing (such as GNU, Creative Commons etc) that we intentionally limit our default copyright protections as the "sources" (not truly isolated) of "intellectual property".

Of course, we must connect "open license" or "open-licensed" to nouns such as "software", "art" or "media" to clarify our intended subject matter in different contexts.


Simon Carter Wed 7 Jun 2017 8:16PM

I'm tremendously grateful for the feedback, but I want to convey something deeper. We are all here because we know we are 'transitioning', it's in the title after all, but what does that mean for ordinary folk in terms of the internet?. I'm trying to explain it as of significance to people in ways that are indicative of a fundamental shift, or paradigm to use the favorite term of many. The internet has been hugely disruptive, some good, some bad. The printing press put mass information in the hands of the literate, & equally was both good & bad. What is the 'good' of the internet as part of the over-all transition that we seek?. I understand that's a wider question than just 'Open Source'.


Michele Kipiel Thu 8 Jun 2017 8:49AM

If I correctly understand your comment, your goal is to answer the question "what good did open source do to us?" or "open source, what is it good for?" regarding the internet.
If that's the case, here are my two cents:

  • Open source is the reason they can use the same browser to visit ALL the sites. If it wasn't for TBL, the internet would probably look like the cable tv landscape: you want to visit my site? Here, install my proprietary browser.
  • Android user? Thank Linus for the Linux kernel.
  • Chrome user? Thank the guys from the Chromium project.
  • Ask them if they ever used wikipedia and, if so, tell them about the creative commons licence

John Rhoads Thu 8 Jun 2017 7:48PM

What is the 'good' of the internet as part of the over-all transition that we seek? It provides answers with the least amount of repetitious work while maintaining a persistent and dynamic record of the evolution of knowledge.


Bob Haugen Wed 7 Jun 2017 9:51PM

The internet is both good and bad. I think (but can't prove) that the economy I seek must be deeply networked (networked in many ways), so the internet is necessary. But it has also become the leading edge of the latest stage of financial-surveillance capitalism, and in the last year or two, has become a weapon of misinformation and psychological manipulation.


John Rhoads Thu 8 Jun 2017 7:42PM

For me, Open Source implies "Trust". The only reason for something to be closed is to be hidden and that usually means protecting a profit source or has security implications which most often traces back to profits.


miguel novik Sat 10 Jun 2017 6:52PM

wonderful bullet. I am totally agree. Remember that I propose to unmask the ¨competitive advantage ¨ (last year´s thread in this forum).
... It means: instead of "using a specific knowledge" just for my company to take as much market share (or $) I could ...I decide (or my customers push me to do it) to share information and to transparent the added value of my contribution.

....¨open source, the sharing of knowledge¨....¨means that solutions to human and natural problems are available to all¨

@simoncarter connecting this bullet with your project....
¨What are the natural problems that your project aims to give solution ¨???

I would love to work with you enabling concrete mechanisms for peers to interact by building "commons" at the same time that we meet our daily needs.

With the help of G´d new mechanisms of interconnection will provide real solutions...

From www.commonstransition.org/what-is-commons-transition/ I took this sentence that inspired me a lot:
¨ The entrepreneurial activities that are created around the commons induce the vision of an ethical economy, a non-capitalist marketplace that re-introduces reciprocity and co-operation in the market’s functioning, while co-creating commons and creating livelihoods for the commoners. This type of economy and market in which co-operation, mutuality, and the common good define the characteristics of a new kind of political economy, point the way to a new state form, which we have called the Partner State.¨

..but in this sentence we have to visualize the ¨Peers¨ learning about the effect of all their daily interactions and deciding accordingly ...

I hope we could work together.... Please answer my question and let me know how could we go forward...


Simon Carter Sun 11 Jun 2017 9:08AM

My ambition Miguel is bound up in the Anna Lappe quote, "Every time you spend money, you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want" . In simple terms capitalism has been about profit in order to buy the planet as property, an absurd notion, owned by fewer & fewer people, the much quoted 1%, or should that be 0.0001%. Our aim is to show a way to start buying it back by simply educating people that where they spend their money, determines who benefits, the 1%. . . . . or the 99%. We aim to co-opt capitalism.
By making it a flat wage workers coop, we hope to attract all sorts of kindred spirits to support us and get involved. Nothing would please us more than to see our ideas taken up abroad. To go back to the title of this thread, they are 'open source'. It is extraordinarily liberating when you have no wish to protect your ideas for personal gain, but only to share them for the sake of the triple bottom line of people, planet, & power of place.


miguel novik Sun 11 Jun 2017 8:12PM

great Anna Lappe quote... i did know her, but for me that is all about.... the peers power...
let us work in build the mechanisms... Let us organize weekly meetings...


Danyl Strype Tue 13 Jun 2017 8:05AM

Before I attempt an answer to this question @simoncarter , I need to know which of the two commons uses of the phrase "open source" you are want to summarize:
1) a PR phrase meaning the same as "free software", but attempting to avoid the confusion created by the two very different meanings of "free" in English (libre and gratis)
2) a theory of development methodology that crystalized around the production of free code software, but has since been generalized to other fields, first described (AFAIK) in an essay called 'The Cathedral and the Bazaar' by Eric Raymond. Its approach can be summed up as a collaborative creation and free sharing of patterns (eg source code, 3D printer models, clothing patterns, food recipes), which can be designed globally, and applied locally.


Simon Carter Tue 13 Jun 2017 8:37AM

Let me explain this way. In a previously life I received some sales training where features, functions, benefits were explained, So for example a feature of a chair is the back rest, the function is to be able to lean back, the benefit is comfort. People buy benefits. I am trying to put a website together which is a business. I need to 'sell' benefits in accessible & meaningful ways to ordinary folk. So from a selfish perspective, again with sales speak, what's the WIIFM ? (what's in it for me). What does open source really 'mean' to people, & why should they care?. It is that aspect that i wish to convey.


Bob Haugen Tue 13 Jun 2017 10:37AM

Website-as-a-business is a totally different question than I thought we were discussing. I thought we were discussion how open source is necessary for commons transition.

How will your website relate to commons transition? That might tell me whether open source is relevant to your website, or the people you want to sell to, or not.


Danyl Strype Tue 13 Jun 2017 11:19AM

What does open source really 'mean' to people, & why should they care?

Yes, this the question you initially asked. Again, to answer it I need you to answer my question. Do you want to sell the benefits of "open source software" and the software freedoms that underpin it, or do you want to sell the benefits of "open source everything"? The latter rests on a much grander and vaguer set of claims, and so is more difficult to test in the wild. If what you're selling is a service based on software, you're better to stick to pitching the former.

You may be looking for a bullet list of benefits that addresses both cases, and the benefits do overlap, but the pitch is very different.

  • One begins, "software based on free code ("open source software") benefits you and the software using community in general, because...".

    • The other begins, "commons-based peer production ("open source development") benefits the community of designers and producers (ie workers) and the society in general, because...". EDIT: fixed formatting

Steve Huckle Wed 1 Nov 2017 9:49PM

I know I'm a bit late to the conversation, but the OSI have a very clear definition of open source: https://opensource.org/osd-annotated


Danyl Strype Sun 12 Nov 2017 9:43AM

This is a good definition @stevehuckle , in fact it's the original definition (based on Bruce Perens work on the Debian Free Software Guidelines). But it describes "open source" as applied specifically to the development of software. It doesn't describe the broader "open source everything" definition that includes the crowdsourced development of things like encyclopedias (Wikipedia), maps (OpenStreetMap), and so on, as used at Open Source // Open Society, for example.

EDIT: Added example


Michel Bauwens Sun 12 Nov 2017 11:52AM

I've collated various definitions and characterizations of open(ess) here: