Open or Closed?

Open or Closed?

I hesitate to say anything, but some debates seem almost as counterproductive as the stench of patchouli. Charlie and Clancy have decided to take people to task for promoting open source concepts while using proprietary software. It’s a bit like accusing people who wear mass-produced clothing of being in favor of global oppression. The issues are far more complex than that. I wasn’t on anyone’s list (I’m quite happy to be under the radar), but I wonder if Charlie and Clancy aren’t spending way too much time contemplating the box, rather than the cereal inside.

My guess is that the future of “open” anything is tied closely to understanding what “open” means. AKMA’s primary job (as far as I know) is in the religion business—not the software business. His openness there is refreshing; he’s already mentioned that the Disseminary will be switching to a different CMS—largely for philosophical reasons. However, for the people who have supported MT because it was the “right tool for the job” their change in business plan has not negated the functionality of their software. It has encouraged people to explore alternatives, yes, but it has not changed the fact that MT works well (now)— though it is questionable (in my opinion) how good the support for piddly users like us is going to be in the future. They have bigger plans; the future of MT for individuals is likely to be more promising in Typepad.

Promoting “open knowledge” or a “creative commons” isn’t the same thing as promoting “open source.” Methinks they doth protest too much. Personally, I’m far less concerned with the box (in this case) than the contents.

Oh— not that anyone cares—but I will probably be switching to WordPress because I want to play with it, not because of any great overarching desire to jump on the “open source” bandwagon. I’m more of an “open knowledge” kind of guy. Not everyone wants to be a software engineer (which seems a necessary condition given the state of most open source stuff). I finally came around to putting a CC license on this blog a while ago, but I’m not certain that using open source software is essential to having credibility as a believer in “open” concepts. It seems to be incredibly closed-minded to suggest otherwise.

7 thoughts on “Open or Closed?”

  1. “It�s a bit like accusing people who wear mass-produced clothing of being in favor of global oppression.”
    Not at all. If you’ll read the list more closely, you’ll see that I was referring to academics who are very active in the intellectual property debates. Those who are very active in promoting “openness” (not sure if “open knowledge” falls within this because I don’t know what it means). As I wrote on my blog, this is more akin to imagining that “the active members of Greenpeace drove Ford Expeditions and Chevy Tahoes and failed to recycle any of their paper, plastic, and aluminum goods.”
    Nor I’m not expecting everyone to go out and change–some will also cite your “right tool” perspective, even though there are viable alternatives–I suspect that excuse, for many people, is really just the convenience of sticking with what people already know.
    So one would think that the main participants in the copyfight discourse would appear to be a little more proactive in this regard as a group whole. Considering all the time that they invest as spoken/written advocates, wouldn’t be too much to see more advocacy through example in this regard.

  2. Open source and the GPL is not synonymous with open knowledge initiatives; as you are fond of pointing out to me, they are different issues.
    That’s why your post really made me wonder– why lump all advocates of the commons together with the advocacy of open source? Yes, it is an option to be considered, but failing to adopt open source in no way damages the credibility of the writers you guys list, at least as far as I’m concerned.

  3. sorry, jeff. i also don’t equate “open knowledge intiatives” with the copyfight (as i admitted above, i’m not quite clear on how you are using the term in this regard). what i understand about “open knowledge” is applied to the sharing of knowledge, often using computer techology such as with P2P, and , admittedly, through the use of open content licenses, for, as you point out, the expansion of the public commons.
    but you are right. open source and open knowledge are not synonymous. nor does “openness” necessarily fit as well with open knowledge as with open source (thinking of bollier’s 1999 berkman center paper). however, i do think that lessig’s work, beginning with code and other laws of cyberspace, has made clear that open source is very important to open knowledge initiatives. but now i seem to be getting off track.
    my concern is about the copyfighters–those people who are heavily involved in the discourse on protectionist IP policies and regulations. from my perspective, open source is important here because it is one known method of confronting protectionism. one could argue that open source/copyleft principles are perhaps the only pratical refutation of the commidification of ip.
    also, many MT users were lured into a false sense of community that was created by six apart. not false in the sense of fraudlent, or false in the sense that there wasn’t/isn’t a community, but false in that they felt that the software was being shared with them in a benevolent way. real benevolent, community sharing of ip (and maybe this does fit in with the open knowledge intiative) only comes when the software is licensed to the community, where individuals cannot assert the rights that were finally asserted under the six apart license.
    so maybe you don’t agree with this position. that’s fine. i don’t expect everyone to. but I think that there are some of those copyfighters, if they reflected more on what dive into mark and other’s have said about open source, both in the past and in reference to MT’s licensing scheme, and then think carefully about long term what open source means to the copyfight, that there would be more of that group making the switch.

  4. I’m with you there, Charlie– open source may be the best protection against the commodification of IP. This is a factor in my desire to switch cms when I can make it do what I currently manage to do with MT. But like most people, I’m hesitant to switch from a working system to one that requires more effort to fit to the same task.
    I was thinking tonight about my slowness in switching from Greymatter to MT– I waited until version 2.21 as I recall. I wanted to make sure it worked before I invested that much effort into it. Open source has big advantages, but it also has risks– mostly it has to do with the longevity of each particular system. The lifespan of most CMS software doesn’t seem to be that long.
    What seems more important than open source to me is open non-proprietary standards (like html). As long as the tools I use adhere to those, I feel comfortable using them. I am far more concerned with long-term readability than short-term software shifts.
    I have begun to agree with you (and Mark Pilgrim) more in the last few weeks, thinking about the viablity of the different cms options. But, I would prefer to invest more thought on the content side, rather than the delivery side.
    So, at best, my agreement is tentative. In principle, yes– but in practice, well, that remains to be seen. The distinction is really a matter of what is deemed most important.

  5. i understand caution in switching between cms apps. it’s been a lot of work maintaining the cms installations i have. so when i switched knews over from postnuke (postnuke was having problems as a community), i researched extensively before making my decision.
    so good luck with your decisions. although i will offer that i think we are starting to reach a maturity point in the invention/development cycle of cms’s, a point where in open source terms, the more popular apps will continue to be around for awhile in one form or another. case in point, wordpress is a fork of b2 which had been abandoned. the larger open source projects, the one’s that are community driven (i’m excluding those which are largely one man shows) are always “open” to future development.

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