Evolving the term “open source”
Nadia Eghbal

If I may, these are two different ideas: what Open Source means to someone, is different from what Open Source actually is (i.e. its definition).

I wrote extensively about the definition in a comment to your last post. My key point is that the license, intentionally chose by the author of the code, tells rather unequivocally whether the software is Open Source or not.

Since you want to hear what it means for me, I would say that it means people can collaborate, which means learning the art of programming, finally leading to better code. It also means people (and companies) can come together to innovate and to tackle projects that can be significantly large and ambitious. Also very importantly, it means that I can tweak the software the way I want it, like I can tweak my car or any other object I buy (a lot of them come with software these days). I value my privacy, therefore I need some kind of insurance that company X placing product Y in my home (e.g. Amazon echo, Google Home, Samsung TV, Mozilla Sense) is not abusing my trust. One way to make sure of that is by demanding the right to access the source code. Even when I can’t read it myself, I can always hire experts to audit the code. If this is important for my home, it is even more important in the public space, for example with voting machines.

Furthermore, Open Source also means that developers have more opportunities to offer their services as freelancers, whether it is about connecting additional devices to a smart home hub, or competing on a project for government. The public sector should definitely prioritize Open Source, as a fair ground for companies and individuals to compete for their business. This should drive cost down (and therefore taxes), while making local developers happy.

Open Source also means that educators can teach technologies without having to worry about giving out digital files to their students, sharing on bittorrent, or wherever they need to educate. For students, it means lower barriers of access to technology and to education, which leads to well paid jobs. For start ups, it means the ability to scale out without running out of cash while they are barely out of the gates.

On a global level, it means better chances for people in other countries to access technology that would otherwise cost them ten times or more what it costs to us based on our relative standard of living. On-boarding these foreigners on Open Source projects, so they can contribute back, is more constructive than incentivizing to procure proprietary software on the black market, meaning piracy, lack of support, rapid obsolescence…

For companies, Open Source is a fantastic way to develop employee engagement while fostering life-long professional development. The WIPRO story is particularly interesting. A link to a Youtube video from WIPRO is on my recent blog post, as well as some other reasons why Open Source matters, which should clarify what it means. 

I encourage you to listen to yesterday’s xiRADIO podcast to hear about other voices from IBM, HortonWorks, SQS Data Technologies, Savoir-faire Linux, and the ICTC. http://www.xiboss.com/xiradio/

I’m also curious to hear what people think :-)

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