Another term for open source

Another term for open source

Summary: Some may think my pitching open source as democratic software and proprietary software as autocratic software is some kind of public relations exercise. They would be right.

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Democratic software.

Open source is the democratic process applied to software, just as Wikipedia is the same process applied to the collection of information.

(Norman Rockwell's Four Freedom paintings, including Freedom of Speech to the right, were originally created to sell War Bonds during World War II. From the National Archives.)

A proprietary software model is more like China. Only the leaders get to know what is going on in the code. The company is like the Communist Party, and you're only in on the change process if you're inside.

By contrast open source offers true democracy, more like that of a Vermont town meeting than the U.S. Congress. Everyone has a voice. Everyone can see the code, edit the code, fix the code. Official changes go through an official process, but that process too is open and transparent.

Some may think my pitching open source as democratic software and proprietary software as autocratic software is some kind of public relations exercise.

They would be right. But open source itself was created as a PR move, in reaction to the dogmatism of the FOSS movement.

One point I have to make about open source again-and-again is that the term was created as a reaction against the concept of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) pushed by people like Richard Stallman, whose freedoms included one to gain improvements from the community.

Entering into the community through a license like the GPL gave equal rights to all, but some felt it placed unequal responsibilities on some, namely those who contributed the biggest improvements to the code base and who might want to profit from that knowledge.

They were looking at the GPL through an economist's eyes. They wanted a meritocracy. They wanted entrepreneurs and free enterprise to gain a seat at the table, to drive the software forward.

The roots of this understanding can be seen in licenses like the BSD License, the Apache License, and the Eclipse License. While the GPL is still the leading open source license its roots lie in FOSS, not open source.

To people like Eric Raymond, sharing did not work as an economic model, even though the GPL turns out to be the best way for business to get maximum input from the community for open source software.

But visible code, and whether it's BSD or GPL all open source code is visible, is inherently democratic. So why not just call open source democratic software?

Topics: Open Source, Software

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11 comments
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  • Public Software

    That's how the Brazilian Government calls it.

    http://www.softwarepublico.gov.br/
    obvio.capitao@...
    • That's one way of looking at it

      That's the view from the copyright user. It is
      public property.

      True.

      I was writing from a political perspective, in a
      theoretical way. (Calling it democratic software
      is not to insult Republicans.)

      But public software is an interesting
      thought...wonder what others think.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • RE: Another term for open source

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  • Freedom is important

    I hate the way my windows computer acts sometimes as a marketing device for the software maker. I can't uninstall instant massinger even though I do not use it. I can disable it, but that is not the same thing. Almost everything I install in windows runs a little process in the system tray. Don't get me started with all the commercial-ware that came with my XP machine. Every time I rebuild system I have to deal with all of it again.

    Worst part is that people are slowly accepting their loss of freedom as a new reality. It is almost now intuitive truth to most people that on your machine you do what you are allowed by software and content makers. I think that is wrong. I think I, and nobody else, should be the king of my computing castle.
    hamobu-22333136139518773481685514128812
  • Great piece

    Thoroughly enjoyed this article. As open source becomes more of a commercially viable model, ideas such as freedom, transparency, and democracy would be powerful PR tools, even if they don't replace completely the term "Open Source."

    @obvio I think "public software" would lack commercial appeal

    urbandk
    • Depends on the market

      I think the recent Latin American summit
      indicated a distrust for the brand "democracy"
      as sold by the United States. Some markets there
      may prefer the term "public" (as opposed to
      private).

      Hey, whatever floats your boat.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Limitations of English

        [i]I think the recent Latin American summit
        indicated a distrust for the brand "democracy"
        as sold by the United States. Some markets there
        may prefer the term "public" (as opposed to
        private). [/i]

        A large part of the labeling problem exists only in English: the lack of distinction between [i]libre[/i] and [i]gratis[/i]. In Latin America, the term [i]software libre[/i] is precise and unambiguous.
        Yagotta B. Kidding
        • Hence the "Free Speech" versus "Free Beer" Distinction, Yagotta?

          Yes, I guess [i]gratis[/i] and [i]libre[/i] do make it much clearer....
          drprodny
  • 'open source' does not guarantee democracy

    The problem with the term 'open source' to me is that it can include completely proprietary software. Just because the source is open and can be studied and modified, does not preclude someone from retaining ownership, copyright, and control over all such code and modifications!

    The source code being 'open' does not guarantee democracy. It may well be simply a more transparent version of autocracy.

    FOSS, on the other hand, much more closely guarantees the kind of democracy you are talking about.
    ArtInvent
  • Democratic Software implies the wrong thing

    Hi Dana,

    To me your term implies that the software itself is somehow democratic. Whereas you are really talking about the process of creating it. In addition most open source projects are run by benevolent dictators (at least the majority of the small ones are), so your term is really not accurate.

    But you have good points that are presented well.
    jimmyed2000
  • one word: bravo

    Tip of the hat.
    Best post by far that I've read for ages.
    Dana president!
    remy215