I just finished reading all the postings in this seminar which means I am now subscribed and will be receiving all future postings :-)
Things have changed since 2001: in our profession, the word "opensource" is now part of our vocabulary although it is still largely misunderstood which is not so bad considering it is nevertheless increasingly adopted
let me start with a few random thoughts crossing my mind:
1. Along with about 50% of opensource programmers, I think the term "freedom-ware" is better but since opensource is so much more widely used, (and the neo-con era has recently tainted the word "freedom") , most of us use the term "opensource" in public. Nevertheless, there is much to be gained in a seminar like this in studying the ongoing arguments for and against the term "freedom-ware": the GPL vs BSD-style opensource licences (more on this if there is interest)
2. There is a huge difference between opensource and what appears to be its cousins: freeware, shareware, demoware, guiltware, trialware, educational-priced commercial software, beta-versions of commercial software etc... The difference is that only opensource is about:
A. Friendship Freedom rights:
Freedom to use it.
Freedom to see it. (open the hood and inspect it)
Freedom to tinker with it.
Freedom to pass these freedoms along to friends and strangers
B. breaking up harmful monopolies
Microsoft acquired or seriously damaged every one of its commercial competitors in the 90's. A major motivation keeping it from stopping all improvements to its software is fear of losing clients to opensource software and even more frightening to heavily open-source based companies like Google.
3. Economically speaking, in a free market, in any given vertical market, an opensource project is bound to dominate over time... much like ecological succession in biology, in time, a mature opensource project is bound to slowly but surely take over a given market because customers demand open standards (to avoid lock-in with vendors), and opensource thrives in open standards environments, and because commercial projects inevitably merge into a monopoly over time, the attraction of commercially monopolized projects diminishes over time. That means that we can expect only one serious commercial offering (blackboard?) vs one serious opensource project (perhaps moodle?, still too early to say) in a market like Learning Management Software over the long term.
4. This year Microsoft has changed strategy and has greatly diminished its dirty tricks campaign against opensource. It has invested in moodle for example (to create an interface with its MS-SQL product) and is doing something bizarre with Novell with respect to a Linux distribution... this is because it has decided to focus its energy on fighting google. And again, this is where understanding the distinction between BSD and GPL licences will help explain how this will split and divide the opensource movement much more effectively than dirty tricks.
enough for now
so here is my simplified understanding of the GPL vs BSD
1. opensource licences are on a spectrum with the GPL and BSD being flagbearers for each side ... there are lots of licences all over the spectrum going between and around these two poles:
expressed in GPL-friendly terminology:
Personal Freedom .............................................. Business Security
Freedom to share............................................... Freedom to Grab
Pure Goodness .................................................. Trojan for Proprietary
expressed in BSD-friendly terminology:
Limits to Business growth ................................... Limitless Potential
People Power Hippies.......................................... Business Friendly
Viral Licence .................................................... True Free Licence
2. GPL = General Public Licence ... Richard M Stallman's greatest invention ... founder of the opensource/freedomware movement, philosopher, ardent defender of the faith, wild-haired, wild-eyed hippy. Most well known software under GPL: Linux. Anyone can improve the code, but may not change the licence on the modified code.
3. BSD = Berkeley Software Distribution ... most similar to "Public Domain", the oldest of the free licences. Anyone can improve the code, and is free to change the licence on the modified code (even to proprietary commercial licence) as long as original code remains opensource. Best known example: Apple Mac OS 10 ... it is an actual BSD unix operating system made proprietary after some minor changes were made to it by apple company.
4. this is greatly oversimplified and real life is a combination of various degrees of each of these poles
5. Personally, I lean towards the GPL side of the spectrum and all my programs are licenced GPL by default. Moodle is GPL. I like it because I think it is the licence that best guarantees that no one will steal moodle code and take over the market and become a commercial monopoly thanks to the our collective work.
But I understand and appreciate the argument that it is good that commercial software be built on top of opensource code because (at least initially before it changes too much), we can still understand how it works under the hood (I find it far far easier to understand Mac OS X than Mac OS 9 which is not based on any opensource code; when Microsoft switched to TCP/IP for networking, it became way easier to understand than the proprietary networking protocols they tried to impose up to the mid 90's
Thank you so much for that explanation and for joining our conversation. I have another question for you, but I think that I'll start a new topic with it, so look for, "What Do You Think Might Be Threats To The Open Source Movement?"
Thanks for explaining these concepts so simply and eloquently. I have never thought of BSD and GPL in that fashion, now I do. The penny has dropped for me.
I think the essential concept that people need to understand is that there are consistent intellectual property laws in all westernized nations. These cover trademarks, patents and copyrights.
By releasing your work under an "open source license" like GPL, BSD or the creative commons, you can share your information more openly. By allowing other people to participate you will create something greater than you could have created on your own.
I recommend Michel Bawen's P2Pfoundation wiki which provides a good overview of how using the "open source idea" empowers people in areas other than software development.
one glaring omission is open-source medicine :-)
P2P medicine/healthcare yes that is one, and one in which a natural commons exists. After all Vitamin C is vitamin C. The main argument for proprietary medicines is the cost to produce and test it but proprietary medicine results in regulations, insurance complexities and lawsuits. I'll be you a dollar someone is thinking of a more efficient means based on OS ideas.
I'll add your suggestion. If anyone is interested in adding their bit as they explore the p2p wiki, the how to contribute page is here:
Open Source Development and Distribution of Digital Information: Technical, Economic, Social, and Legal Perspectives
the course is nearing the end; so it is very fresh and a very appropriate follow up to this workshop
|Wikipedia as an Open Source Project|
|Open Source Biology|
|Open Access Journals and Publications|
This is great. Thank you.
UC Berkely is doing some great stuff in terms of practicing what they preach. They made these lectures available for everyone, the syllabus is a wiki, and other courses have been video taped and are now up on Google video.
My favorite is Dr. Marian Diamond's Integrative Biology 131.
This is very interesting, especially Wikipedia as open source project. I have been involved in Wikipedia for a couple of years now and have attended the two conferences Wikimania in Frankfurt 2005 and in Boston 2006.
I am right now developing a set of learning objects for teachers and teacher education students about wikis and most of it intigrate various wikimedia projects. I make it requirement for my students to write articles in Icelandic Wikipedia and learning content, webquests, Internet Scavenger hunts etc in Icelandic wikibooks and upload pictures they use in Wikipedia Commons.
My learning objects called (The wiki school bus) are at http://wiki.khi.is but right now the site is only in Icelandic. Hopefully I will have time soon to translate some of it and explain my ideas about using wikibooks-wikimedia-commons together and why I think that is important for teachers.
Chris also mentioned that he read through our seminar and pointed out that Richard Stallman was the founder of free software, and not opensource/freedomware. Here's a link to the thread in TALO. Chris also provided links to Wikipedia's definition of free software and free software movement which I also added to our Wiki.
I'll have to carefully read all these definitions to get it sorted out in my head.
BTW TALO list is a great way to keep up-to-date on how educators are using software in their own practice, and generally on current issues in education.