Category Archives: open source culture

Cloud Computing Calms Open Source Warfare

Here’s my most recent column:

Cloud computing, technology delivered over the Internet, has become a hot area in the last few years. The technology marketplace moves at breakneck speeds, but it is still shocking when innovation almost completely wipes out squabbles like those over open source (OS) vs. proprietary software.

“In a cloud world, source code is almost irrelevant,” Matt Asay recently wrote at GigaOm.
Tim O’Reilly was among the first to point this out in 2008, when he said that “Architecture trumps licensing any time.”

This statement rings true to most experts following this space, but for those who remember the heated battles between proprietary software providers and the open source community, the new environment seems almost surreal.

There was a time, for example, when Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer called Linux a “cancer.” Now the company is actively engaging the open source community in various ways, such as offering OS applications on its cloud, the Windows Azure platform, and publicizing that 350,000 OS applications run on Windows.

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Considering an Open Future

Presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-Texas) became the “Internet” candidate this month when 36,672 people contributed more than US$4 million online to his campaign in a single 24-hour period. This impressive feat demonstrates the power of an open source culture, a lesson that should not be lost when it comes to other important issues.

The campaign to raise money for Rep. Paul was open source in a number of ways. First, it was a decentralized effort, promoted by people all over the country simultaneously. Indeed, Paul’s campaign was so hands-off that the candidate told The New York Times that he “had nothing to do with it.” It was two independent people who started the ball rolling.

James Sugra posted an online video proposing a big day of fund-raising for Paul, and Trevor Lyman separately created a site, www.thisnovember5th.com, that featured the video. Lyman’s site is now planning another big day on Dec. 16, the anniversary of the Boston Tea party.

On that day, Paul’s open source campaigners are hoping to encourage 100,000 people to donate $100 each.

Choosing a historical day may not be a particularly new fundraising tactic, but the additional open source cultural spin is that the site is automatically updating how many people have pledged so far. This transparency complements the home page of Ron Paul’s Web site, which constantly pops up names of his campaign donors. Those revelations stand in direct contrast to traditional campaigns, which tend to be silent and proprietary about who is donating.

Paul’s “donation feed” is reminiscent of the somewhat addictive “newsfeed” on social networking site Facebook,and it appears to have the effect of increasing donations. In a society where privacy is shrinking, it seems many embrace the idea of sharing more information, not less. Paul’s supporters are not alone in their recognition of the power of a voluntary open source culture.

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