Mom, apple pie and open source

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank founded by Obama transition head John Podesta (right), has come out with a release calling the Administration's stimulus proposal an open source stimulus, because it emphasizes transparency and will feature a Web site where voters can track where the money goes. That's not open source.

Whenever I make a real egregious error here, like confusing FOSS with open source, I can usually count on a short e-mail from Richard Stallman, dear old RMS himself.

So I hope he forgives me going all Richard Stallman on the Obama Administration.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank founded by Obama transition head John Podesta (right), has come out with a release calling the Administration's stimulus proposal an open source stimulus, because it emphasizes transparency and will feature a Web site where voters can track where the money goes.

That's not open source. Open source is not accountability and transparency. It's about licensing code in such a way that users get to see it, fix it, and extend it. It's not about putting up a Web site with numbers on it.

I think the use of open source here is in fact a complement. Open source, as a concept, is acquiring the cache of mom, apple pie, and warm puppies (which can be as hard to identify as Commerce Secretaries).

Thus it's natural that politicians would tend to graft open source onto what they say. Any term which becomes wildly popular gets this treatment. An example is early in this decade when rules meant to re-monopolize telephony and extend that monopoly to the Internet were termed "de-regulation."

It would be a shame if open source ended up on that historical scrap pile.

The question for now is whether CAP is misrepresenting the term. Should the OSI be writing CAP a stern letter?

And if we're not to use the term "open source" to denote accountability and transparency using Internet resources, what shorthand term should we use?

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