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Open Source Your Life

Are you a person that has felt “The Man” has held you down? Do you feel to have to spend money to make money? I do and I’m sick of it. How can I learn the programs I need to bolster my skills? Open source. Open source is free software that I feel can help “even the playing field” in having people learn new skills, but importantly have the opportunity to do so.

First, let’s define open source. Encyclopedia Britannica Online (old school, right?) defines open source as:

“A social movement, begun by computer programmers, that rejects secrecy and centralized control of creative work in favour of decentralization, transparency, and unrestricted (“open”) sharing of information. Source refers to the human-readable source code of computer programs, as opposed to the compiled computer programming language instructions, or object code, that run on computers but cannot be easily understood or modified by people.”

A bit long, but basically it’s free software or freeware. The Free Software Definition, written by Richard Stallman and published by Free Software Foundation (FSF) defines free software, as a matter of liberty, not price. The term “free” is used in the sense of “free speech,” not of “free beer.” That speaks a bit more to me. Of course, not everybody understands this.

Naysayers

As Benkler says, “Difficult for observers to believe, is the rise of effective, large-scale cooperate-peer production of information, knowledge, and culture.” I think some non-progressive thinkers would see open source as something that goes against their work. They have spent countless hours learning source code and the expensive programs, now someone who paid nothing to use open source software can move in on “their territory.” Perhaps this ties into the Babel objection, which “when everyone can speak, no one can be heard.” Is this true of open source? Are we giving away too many secrets?

I disagree. I feel open source, as Benkler says of the networked economy, “improves (their) capacity to do more for and by themselves.” Just think of the poor and middle income families and countries that could have exposure to the programs and software that could not afford it. Aside from the $1,500 (or even the discounted $300) that Adobe charges for access to their programs, I know my parents could not fork over that money when I was a kid. I could go on about software, but the open source movement has even trickled down to every thing from health and medicine to soda and beer.

Open source may sound a bit radical to some, but remember everything from your iPhone apps to certain popular video games to my web browser (Firefox) and to even one of my references Wikipedia is in fact, open source. So what’s next for open source? I would say it has no boundaries.

Reference:

  1. open source. (n.d.). © Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.. Retrieved January 31, 2010, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/open source
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source
  3. Benkler, Y. (2006). Wealth of Networks, Introduction. New Haven: Yale University Press
  4. Photo credit: http://geecology.blogspot.com/2010/01/open-source-and-why-it-is-important.html