Media in the age of open source

Summary:Is there any such thing as pre-release code in the open source world?

The seizure of Jason Chen's stuff for getting his hands on a pre-beta iPhone took me back 25 years, then dropped me back into the present.

Back in the spring of 1985 I was preparing to join Newsbytes, an online news service then hosted at The Source, but there was a problem with our other hire, Englishman Steve Gold.

He had just been arrested.

Steve was, like me (and like Jason) a freelance writer. He was doing some security work for the old Prestel network, and hacked into it. For this he would stand trial, be convicted, and live in legal limbo for years until the Law Lords finally overturned it.

The question on that spring day of 1985 was whether Steve was a risky hire. Emphatically no, I said. Why, he's a made man. If you're not willing to skate on thin ice to do your job, that would be a problem.

Flash forward 25 years. It seems little has changed. Judging from his blog, Jason has the kinds of obsessions, like video games, associated with my son's generation. He's like Steve.

But this is not a story that resonates at all with open source. A proprietary vendor feels that its secrets have been compromised. It wants people to ooh and aah when they see the new iPhone has two cameras, that you can hold it up and engage in videoconferencing.

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a (well I live in Atlanta, what else was I supposed to say?).

It is true that if someone got their hands on the next HTC or Motorola Android phone, there might be a stink. But it would not be that great. The Android code, the capabilities it supports, are transparent and available. Vendors can choose among the options.

Is there any such thing as pre-release code in the open source world? All repositories have some, but the word for such code is buggy. It's worthless. Pre-release code gains value only after it's tested and accepted formally into the code base -- in other words when it's released. We need find no code before its time.

Here at ZDNet Open source, I have long known that our most popular stories are straightforward announcements of code releases and new features. My co-blogger Paula Rooney is great at getting those stories in to us and you show her your love for it. Numbers don't lie.

The kind of stuff I specialize in -- asking questions of vendors, readers, and government -- stirring up controversy, it's not so popular with y'all. But going undercover to get behind a curtain, grabbing untested products before they're ready, that's not really a story in an open source world.

Back in Steve Gold's home of old blighty, this whole case is being laughed at. The American press is said to be in the tank for vendors, and its reaction to the Chen case is being cited as an example of why British reporters are just better.

I know that's still true in one case. But how do y'all feel about it?

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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