Archive for Tag ‘Free Software‘

Cathy Davidson at Berkman

Cathy Davidson, whose new book Now You See It I wrote about last week, was also a guest speaker at the Berkman Center. (Coincidentally, on the same day!).

Here’s the video, including Q&A:

Wish I’d been able to make it!

Open Source Education for the 21st Century

Now You See it

Cathy Davidson‘s Now You See It argues that the educational system in the US is failing to prepare graduates for the work they will be doing in the 21st century. While I found myself vigorously nodding at the general argument of the book, there were also some places I wished Davidson had developed in greater detail.

The best part of the book for me is the description of the roots of our standard educational approach going back to the early 20th century: Taylorism, the IQ, and standardized testing on a large scale. These approaches made sense when education’s focus was the creation of disciplined, managerial, bureaucratic middle-managers for hierarchical, command-and-control corporations.

Unfortunately, while the workforce is adapting to new realities of globalization, the digital revolution, and commons-based peer production, the educational system has not kept pace.

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Free as in What, Exactly?

Free Software advocates have for a long time worked to draw a distinction between free of cost (“Free as in Beer”) and free of restrictions (“Free as in Speech” or as I prefer “Free as in Freedom”). The challenge stems from the fact that we use, in idiomatic English, the same word “Free” to refer to both concepts, whereas in romance languages (based on latin) there’s a clearer distinction between gratis and libre.

Optaros Beer, which was free as in freedom but not as in beer

Optaros Beer, which was free as in freedom but not as in beer

Of course, as r0ml pointed out in a masterful OSCON presentation in 2008, we do have a corresponding word in English to libre – Liberal, or Liberty. Maybe if we’d been calling it “Liberty Software” or “Freedom Software” all these years there’d be less FUD.

Two recent posts crossed my blog reader on the challenge of value versus cost. Now that so many content creators are taking approaches similar to free software via unconferences and creative commons licenses, we need to remember that “free” in these case does not mean without value and does not have to mean without cost.

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The Knight Foundation News Challenge, Open Source, and the Future of Hyperlocal

(Quick Update 10/11/09 – see Zachary Seeward’s post about how the Knight Foundation is considering changing the terms of grants in the future, as well as Patrick Thornton’s piece on how the Foundation is assembling a team to continue working on the code base produced by the Everyblock team).

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, among many other philanthropic initiatives in culture, community, and journalism generally, has been running the Knight News Challenge since 2007. Its basically a grant competition, in which various digital journalism initiatives compete for a pool of grants amounting to $25 million total over five years.

One aspect which makes the Knight News Challenge unique – other than the size of the grant pool – is that the winning grantees are required to:

1. Use digital, open-source technology.
2. Distribute news in the public interest.
3. Test your project in a local community.

It looks like a fantastic strategy: encourage innovation, provide funding without forcing the grantees into short-term, must-build-immediate-ROI type thinking, and share the results with the broader community through open source.

Knight - Photo by Ruth L., cc-by-nd license

Knight - Photo by Ruth L., cc-by-nd license

Two recent successful projects from Knight Foundation grantees – EveryBlock and Village Soup (which I’ve written about before in this blog), however, suggest there might be some gaps in the Foundation’s overall plan.

The core of the issue is this question: once the Knight Foundation funding is expended, what happens to the open source project the grant process mandates?

Do the creators truly create, engage with, and sustain an open source community around the code they release, contributing to and supporting the open source version, or do they “take it private”, leaving the open source seed to either take root and grow (or wither) on its own?

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Open Source versus Free Software from a Marketing Perspective

Via Sandro Grogans comes an interesting interview / discussion from about the use of the phrases “open source” and “free software” and the need to tailor the message to the audience.

Bruce Perens (co-founder of the Open Source Initiative) and Shane Coughlan (from FSF Europe):

Perens essentially calls the exclusion or downplaying of Richard Stallman a critical mistake made at the point of split between the “Open Source” and “Free Software” camps. They go on to discuss what the current challenges are in terms of helping people understand the core concepts of freedom underlying both approaches.

At risk of inciting a comments flame war, are “open source” and “free software” just two different names for the same thing, as Perens argues (even if you believe one name to be better than the other)?