Evolving the term “open source”
Nadia Eghbal

My GitHub profile has “open source” contributions dating back to 2009. To me, the sheer fact that I have put source code on an open website to share with the world is by definition open source. If however we start to pick apart the details of what we all really value in terms of open source, I’ve only really meaningfully been contributing to that for the past 12 months or so with https://github.com/micro.

From the standpoint of contributing to Open Source. To me, Open Source is the conscious act of openly sharing source code with others with the hopes that they will find it to be useful and rather everyone having to implement something themselves they can use this instead. There is no expectation for anyone to contribute back but it would be quite nice if they did.

On the flip side, from a user standpoint. I rely on Open Source in all aspects of my personal and professional projects. It stops me from having to solve difficult problems that have already been solve, it stops me from reinventing the wheel, and it lets me think about the next problems that need to be solved. I know that Open Source Software comes in many forms in terms of code quality, licensing and it’s activity. I have no expectations of open source software except that there be transparency in what it provides and what I must “pay” in the long term to use that based on its licensing model.

Open Source at the very core is an incredibly simple concept. I think to overload the term really starts to alienate a lot of what makes it simple and powerful. I think what you really want to think about is the ecosystem around open source software.

A project can be open source but there be no community, nothing in regard to contributions, the author can choose to reject any modifications, and others have the choice to fork that project if they feel its lacking in the features they need. If a project takes off it becomes something more, we become reliant upon it, we form expectations, at that point it becomes more than just a piece of open source software.

I think the goal should be to keep the definition of open source light and lean but think about what it enables and then what that new thing really is. Docker and Kubernetes are open source projects but the world of computing is about to drastically change because of them. They are merely the initial seed. What exists now are ecosystems. Ecosystems have requirements, expectations, a community, etc, etc.

Just some of my thoughts.

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