"Open source" for the masses? A report on open source

by Hans on 2005/05/16

Here’s an online resource that I forgot to write about. This report is titled “Wide Open: Open source methods and their future potential“. It’s freely available in electronic format.

I haven’t read the entire report in detail, but here’s the gist. The authors believe that “open source” methods, which have been successful in the software domain, can be applied to other disciplines, domains, and areas. Open source brings “principles and working methods which can help to produce better knowledge, goods or services, or make them available on more widely beneficial terms”. Sounds good, but I think the authors are coming from a biased perspective. By “biased”, I mean that they aren’t convinced of open source and don’t really understand it.

Basically, the authors suggest that the “peer review” process and collaborative model is somehow unique to open source (it isn’t). Eric Raymond refers to the “gift culture” in his book The Cathedral & the Bazaar (Paperback). Put it this way: the authors think that working together is some sort of novel approach only found in open source.

I don’t think the report presents any new information in and of itself. If you’re looking for a good read on open source, I’d suggest Raymond’s book (see above). But, if you’re looking for a reference to cite in a report or paper, this report may be something useful.

{ 1 comment }

Peter May 24, 2005 at 3:35 am

I agree that the Demos paper contains some interesting discussion – but not a great deal new. And I do wonder how much the authors really understand about open source.

Also, as I started reading it, my mind cast back to a very similar piece in WIRED in November 2003, by Thomas Goetz. There were so many similarities (the use of Linux and Wikipedia as prime examples for the arguments) that I had to go back and read Goetz’s piece too – it is at

Given the similarities of argument, I would be surprised if the Demos authors had not come across the Goetz WIRED piece, and so it seems an odd ommission (or maybe they want to try and claim some kind of originality of the ideas??).

The Demos piece has some other startling omissions too – given discussions on open knowledge, open review in academia and open access type of models, there seems to be no mention of initiatives such as the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and all the open access publishing models such as PLoS.

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