A Culture of Open Sharing

I’ve been using open source software for over 10 years now, and I’ve been publishing for over 20 years. I tend to be one that likes to share what I create with the world, and also appreciates when others share what they have created. To me, this is much of the basis of open source software – the creation and sharing of not just code, but ideas and ideals. When I say I’ve been using open source software for many years, I don’t do so begrudgingly, I do it because I believe in it.

Open for Business
(Photo by Janet Towbin)

When Creative Commons came along, I immediately saw a benefit to it. again, I’m not just a consumer of things, I am a creator of things, and I’ve published music, and created videos, and images and words, that I’ve carefully chosen a license for. I want others to be able to properly use my work, as I want to be able to use theirs.

BarCamp is a great example of open culture, and I’m proud of being one of the people who brought BarCamps to Wisconsin. Our local group, Web414 is modeled very much on the way a BarCamp works, ad-hoc and open. (In fact, we even declare our meetings a “Creative Commons Zone” and request that media created at the meetings use a Creative Commons license when published.)

YES WE'RE OPEN - from lwr
(Photo by Leo Reynolds)

Almost all of the feedback on things like BarCamp and DrupalCamp and Web414 has been positive. Now, I did say almost, because there exists this small group of people who seem to exist to take and not give, to do nothing but shoot things down instead of lift things up. They’re similar to trolls, but really, they are like leeches in that they tend to suck things out, and give nothing in return. They don’t share, they aren’t open, and they are negative to those who do, yet… they are more than happy to take what they can (for free) while never seeing the contradiction in their actions. Even those who make a living on the net, which was largely built on the ideas of openly sharing, don’t get it.

I Assure You We're Open - from radven
(Photo by Chris Dunphy)

And that’s where I’m done. I don’t want to deal with these people. They won’t change their minds, and I waste my time trying to get through to them. What’s the point? I’m more interested in positive and creative people who are doing interesting things, making the future happen, and willing to share that with the world. People who get excited about the work they are doing, whether they get paid for it or not. The people who care only about creating things in exchange for the almighty dollar, I have no time for you. Leave me be…

I’ll continue my pursuit of people and ideas and cultures that are open. That’s where the future is, or at least the future I want to be a part of.


NeoOffice and Innovation in Office Suites

Gabe wrote a post about his recent experiences with Office Suite software. I left a comment there, but thought I should expand on it here.


Here’s the comment I left:

I am very close to being 100% happy with NeoOffice (which is an offshoot of OpenOffice, for Mac OS X.)

I do not compare it to MS Office the way you might. For me, it is free and open source. This means I can install it on the 10+ Macs that I manage for $0 (in reality, I donated money to NeoOffice because I do find it valuable, and want it to flourish. Still, $25 for unlimited copies?) Anyway, the only features I care about is that it can open all those damn MS Office file formats. That’s it. For all I know, it completely sucks in every other respect. I don’t care. To me, it’s pretty much a viewer/converter. I do use it for simple document creation, but I could use other tools for that as well. It even handles Microsoft formats the the Mac version of Office can’t handle!

Sometimes innovation is found in just being an alternative.

Honestly, I’m coming at it from an entirely different direction that Gabe, so I’m in no way trying to discount his opinion, I’m just pointing out that different people have different needs. For the last 10 years I’ve been building web sites for clients, and sometimes those clients send me Word documents, from which I need to wrestle out the text. Believe me, try as you might to ask people to send you plain text files, or even RTF files, they just don’t get it. That’s fine. Today you can send me a Microsoft Word document, and I can open it, and get that precious text out of it. And I can install the software that does it on as many machines as I want, and not have to worry about license keys working, or buying more copies, or having to pay for upgrades, or any of that crap.

Years ago I was really excited about open source software that came out that dealt with things I did every day, text editing, web serving, graphics work, etc. But an office suite? It sounded like a movie with a cruel twist: “You get to work on open source software! By the way, it’s an office suite!” So the real innovation to me is the disruption in the status quo, being the alternative, the “here, this is free, it’s not perfect but may fit your needs just fine” compared to the polished commercial product filled with restrictions and hoop-jumping.

Big thanks goes out to the NeoOffice guys, as well as the OpenOffice folks, and all that contribute to open source software.


What makes Firefox open-source?

I’ve had this argument many times with Justin… defining what exactly makes something open-source.

He is confident in telling me that Firefox is not open-source, and (as I understand it) he believes this because the Mozilla Organization, which controls the source code for Firefox, does not easily allow people to contribute code. They keep a tight grip on who was their bits put into Firefox. And while it is true that there are pieces in Firefox that you cannot use elsewhere (branding elements, graphics, etc.) I still believe that Firefox is open-source due to the fact that it uses the Mozilla Public License which is considered an open-source license by the Open Source Initiative.

I asked the question on Pownce recently, Is the Firefox web browser open-source?

And I think it’s a question that most people who have a basic understanding of the term “open-source” would answer “yes” to, but… Is that the case?

I thought maybe searching for “firefox is not open source” would unveil some great conspiracy I was not aware of, but no such luck.

Personally, I don’t think allowing people to contribute code is a requirement of open-source. It may be an important component of community and “open-ness” but accepting someone else’s code into your project does not seem to be a requirement. Providing the source code, and allowing people to modify and use that source code does seem to be a requirement, and though I’ve always downloaded binaries, I just downloaded the source code to Firefox.

So what is the scoop here? Is Firefox open-source?



jEdit is moving along nicely. After some hiccups with the latest 4.1pre version, it looks like the next 4.1pre version fixes most of the big problems… In fact I’m using it now, and all is well again. Did I mention I like open source software? Yes, I’m sure I did…


Hell freezes over, Darwin, Win32 OSS

Has Hell frozen over? From Hemos at Slashdot: “Taco and I are both strongly considering beginning to use OSX as a primary laptops.” (And by that I’m assuming he means get a PowerBook and run Mac OS X… you always have to decipher SlashTalk…)

Seriously though, Apple’s Switcher ads tend to show people who aren’t exactly hardcore geeks (let alone Geeks in Space) and lately we’ve been seeing a lot of the O’Reilly folks moving to Mac OS X (including Tim I believe) and now the Slashdot crew? Apple needs some new Switcher ads featuring the geekiest of geeks and the nerdiest of nerds. “So I got a TiBook, and now I can compile Apache while running a nightly build of Mozilla and connecting to my G4 via ssh to set up a cron job to run ditto and backup my home directory to my Darwin box…” Or something like that…

Yeah, I said Darwin, and from the Darwin FAQ: “Although the BSD licenses don’t require companies to post their sources… We believe that the open source model is the most effective form of development for certain types of software”

Also from Slashdot: “I’m cooking up a CD-ROM image of excellent Win32 Open Source software…” Sounds like a good idea to me… I’ve mentioned open-source apps for Windows before, but as someone who isn’t a Windows person, my take on things is minimal. It’ll be good to see what others think are the good open-source Windows apps… has a list of Open Source Software in a Windows Environment

Because friends shouldn’t let friends use Windows…