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The Economist Article: Looking at Open Source at a Tilt
Friday, March 17 2006 @ 12:33 PM EST

You probably saw the article on Open Source in the Economist, "Open, but not as usual".

If you did, you read it and probably sighed. The premise of the article is that the very openness of the Open Source method is its worst vulnerability, particularly as attempts are made to extend the method beyond software, and as the title implies, that Open Source is changing to become more like proprietary. It is also another attack on Wikipedia. My, there's been a lot of anti-Open Source mileage out of that. I have news for you. Wikipedia is not an Open Source project. It's a cousin, maybe. But it's an entirely different kettle of fish, as I'll explain.

This is the part in the article that got me sighing:

The open-source method has vulnerabilities that must be overcome if it is to live up to its promise. For example, it lacks ways of ensuring quality and it is still working out better ways to handle intellectual property.

But the biggest worry is that the great benefit of the open-source approach is also its great undoing. Its advantage is that anyone can contribute; the drawback is that sometimes just about anyone does. This leaves projects open to abuse, either by well-meaning dilettantes or intentional disrupters. Constant self-policing is required to ensure its quality.

First of all, Open Source, for example the Linux kernel, has never been anything but controlled by Linus. At the bottom, anyone can contribute, true. But there is a definite sieve-like process as the code moves up through various lieutenants until it finally gets to Andrew Morton and Linus. Anyone can comment on the code, offer fixes, or something better. But the thing is, Linus has always been there at the top, with total veto power. It has never been a free-for-all.

You know that. I know that. So why doesn't the Economist? Instead, the article goes on to assert that the Wikipedia method leads to chaos and so Open Source needs to tighten up, and more, that it now realizes it and is. What poppycock.

And of course, there is the obligatory reference to SCO, and the usual misinformation:

The question of accountability is a vital one, not just for quality but also for intellectual-property concerns. Patents are deadly to open source since they block new techniques from spreading freely. But more troubling is copyright: if the code comes from many authors, who really owns it? This issue took centre stage in 2003, when a company called SCO sued users of Linux, including IBM and DaimlerChrysler, saying that portions of the code infringed its copyrights. The lines of programming code upon which SCO based its claims had changed owners through acquisitions over time; at some point they were added into Linux.

Heh heh. Not exactly. IBM wasn't sued for using Linux. It was sued for contributing code to Linux. SCO mainly is suing IBM by means of a theory of contract, as best as anyone can make out, a ladder theory by which somehow the contract can be interpreted in a novel way so that any code IBM writes, if it ever touches UNIX SystemV, or if it is kind of similar to methods and concepts in Unix, can then be controlled by SCO, even if there is no SystemV code or derivative code in it. Nice work if you can get it. Here's SCO's Second Amended Complaint if you want to try to figure it out yourself.

And by the way, when code is written by many authors, they all own the part they individually wrote. Is that hard to grasp? No need to travel to Delphi to get that puzzle solved. Each author holds the copyright to his own piece of code. That's the Linux kernel setup. Think of it like a collection of short stories. Each author holds copyright in his story, and the editor might hold a copyright in the collected work. In other projects, say under the GNU umbrella, the Free Software Foundation might hold the copyright. In other projects, a foundation set up around a specific project might.

SCO certainly tried to assert copyright claims, although at one point it swore up and down it hadn't, but the judge in the case was not impressed with their evidence. Their copyright claims had to do with continuing to distribute AIX after SCO allegedly terminated their license. Look at the Complaint, and you'll see that in the Fifth Cause of Action. I know. That doesn't match what SCO said in the funny papers. But read the court filings for yourself, and you'll see. Copyright is more of a problem only because they don't have any Unix patents to sue over.

Copyright is a problem *for* SCO, however, because Novell has asserted in a blazing Answer with Counterclaims that Novell owns the copyrights, not SCO. Should that get established, SCO is ...well, pretty much a dead duck.

And DaimlerChrysler wasn't sued for copyright infringement. There was only one cause of action, breach of contract. AutoZone was, but when push came to shove, it turned out it was really about them switching from Unix to Linux, and SCO asserting they used SCO's shared libraries to make the switch, something AutoZone denied. The judge in that case said that SCO's claims against AutoZone would be completely undermined if Novell wins.

If you wish to check my accuracy, and by all means do, here's SCO's complaint against DaimlerChrysler, which the Economist forgot to mention SCO lost in all significant parts in 2004. It was an embarrassing rout. The last little bit might get resurrected someday, but if it is, here's what the Order dismissing the complaint without prejudice on stipulation says will happen:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, in the event Plaintiff The SCO Group, Inc. refiles its claim for breach of contract for Defendant DaimlerChrysler Corporation's alleged failure to respond to the request for certification in a timely manner, Plaintiff shall pay Defendant's costs and reasonable attorneys' fees incurred in the instant action in defending against that claim only, from and after the entry of this Court's August 9, 2004 Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant DaimlerChrysler Corporation's Motion for Summary Disposition, as a condition precedent to pursuing any such refiled action.

SCO tried to appeal the August order, but it was dismissed. Nobody is quaking in their boots over DaimlerChrysler. It stands for the proposition that you can sue anybody over any foolishness you please, as long as you don't mind having good men everywhere burst out laughing at you. DaimlerChrysler hadn't used Unix for almost a decade, something SCO apparently didn't bother to check before litigating.

And here's the complaint against AutoZone, which is moribund, to be resurrected only after IBM is decided and only worth resurrecting if Novell loses too, neither of which anyone I know and respect is expecting. You can read this transcript of a court hearing in the case to learn about the real issue, the libraries. If you wish to read all the documents in the case, just go to our Legal Docs page and help yourself. Here's the DaimlerChrysler collection. And here's Autozone. And here's IBM. And here's Novell.

I'm pointing out all the mistakes in the Economist article, not to be mean, but just to say that if Wikipedia had made as many errors, there would be anguished cries of inaccuracy and calls for reform of the Wikipedia process. When the mainstream media makes huges errors of fact, nobody even remarks on it. Except for Groklaw. It's our calling, you might say. I've been writing Groklaw now daily since May of 2003, carefully and laboriously chronicling and correcting all the mainstream media's mistakes in their reporting on the SCO litigation, and I haven't run out of material yet, have I? What does that tell you about accuracy in journalism done the old-fashioned way?

Actually, I can tell you a little story about the Economist article, because the reporter on this story contacted me in January and interviewed me in preparing this article. So you can't say he made mistakes because he didn't know about Groklaw or had no idea where to turn for raw material on SCO. You can't even say that no one told him before his article was published that he was making mistakes in his overall concept. Here's the rest of the story.

In January, I got an email from the Economist, asking to interview me:

I'd be keen to chat with you briefly about the issue of how benefits of open-source entail inherent vulnerabilities that need to be addressed (eg, Wikipedia and accountability/accuracy). I read your piece in the O'Reilly book "Open Sources 2.0" and thought it might be good to chat briefly.

I noticed that he was laboring under some wrong ideas, and looking at the finished article, I notice that he never wavered from his theory, so I don't know why I even bothered to do the interview. But I requested that he send me questions by email, which I'd gladly answer. Here are two of his questions pertinent to this article and the answers I sent back:

* When you realized you needed to establish some controls to remedy the threat of well-meaning poor-performers or intentional disrupters, where did you go to find models for what to do? If it was the open source software community's practices, please explain the parallels regarding how they police their contributors with respect to how you do....

PJ: I analyzed it somewhat like this: what will work without violating principles we share? Many readers suggested an official comment policy, so we wrote one together. That made it easier to implement, because we all agreed, as we learned from experience. I rarely have to do anything, because others immediately spot disruption attempts.

But I also was influenced by a paper I'd read, whose name I forget, that compared the effectiveness of the Linux development process as a pyramid, with Linus at the top. He's at the top because it's his project and because others respect his skill and ability.

The paper pointed out that at the bottom of the pyramid, there are no barriers to entry, however. Anyone can contribute code and ideas. But then there is a filtration process, whereby everyone evaluates the code/idea in public, and then lieutenants implement or not, so that Linus sees the discussion, but the code sent to him isn't sent by just anyone in the world. There is a merit test first.

I decided I'd do it that way too. It helps me, because time is always at short supply, and it helps me because over time, you learn who is trustworthy and effective and willing and you can rely on their judgment. But one person has to be willing to be the bad guy and say NO when it's necessary, and the vision is that person's responsibility to move forward by making tactical decisions.

And in a project that involves a specialty, you can't have a democratic process where it's one man, one vote. The Linux development process doesn't work that way, because some people are better at coding than others, and some are more interested in the project sticking to what it set out to do. Others come along with ideas to extend the project to suit their ideas, or what their business wants, and sometimes they're fine ideas, but they don't work to push the project where it's trying to go.

It requires folks in decision-making roles who get that and are willing to lop off ideas that lead to dead ends. Also, in a legal project, you are more constrained, by the law, for one thing, and because not everyone understands the law equally.

* If you were to make any recommendation to Wikipedia with respect to overcoming the controversy it faced in terms of inaccurate information, what would it be?

I view the Wikipedia story somewhat differently. In my view, the false report, which was intended as a joke in the first place, not a malicious act, was fixed, the victim received an apology, the joker lost his job, and the whole world learned that it was not true information. Could a defamation lawsuit get you more than that? Well, money maybe, but if your concern is your reputation, the Wikipedia event was a template in fixing things right.

In contrast, I was, in my opinion, defamed by several articles in the professional media. I believe it's all part of SCO's strategy (and friends') to destroy Groklaw's and my reputation, so folks won't believe what we publish. In one case, a journalists' professional group sent a letter to Forbes pointing out factual flaws in their article. The letter was not responded to in any way that I ever heard about, no correction was ever published, no apology was forthcoming, and no one was disciplined.

So I ask, which is worse? The way Wikipedia handled an injustice? Or the way the mainstream press does? One's only relief with the latter is to bring a lawsuit against the mainstream press, if they don't fix it themselves, yet the bottom line with Wikipedia is: if you see a mistake about yourself, you really can just fix it yourself.

Obviously, I made no dent in his theory of the article, that Wikipedia is flawed because anyone can work on it and that Wikipedia is an example of problems in Open Source. My view is that Wikipedia isn't an example of Open Source precisely because there is no Linus at the top. Here's a very clear and accurate description of how the Linux kernel is developed, from a 2004 article in InfoWorld by Paul Venezia:

Decisions on what features and patches are incorporated into the official kernel are generally preceded by much debate among kernel developers, but are ultimately made by the kernel maintainer, a central authority who shoulders the brunt of day-to-day maintenance, as well as the responsibility for official kernel releases. Given the size and scope of the kernel, neither the maintainers nor Linus Torvalds himself can fully know and understand every portion of the kernel. To alleviate this, several unofficial kernel subsystem maintainers are entrusted to keep a watchful eye on their chosen sections of the code and to contribute validated patch sets to the maintainer for inclusion in the next release.

New releases of the stable kernel are vetted through a release candidate process, during which kernel patches are tested by the community. In addition to release candidate kernels, patches for stable and unstable kernels are distributed by a select few core developers, such as Alan Cox and Andrew Morton. These patches usually contain experimental code that hasn’t been officially introduced into the source by Torvalds, as well as bug fixes or hardware support likely to be incorporated into the next release.

While the kernel maintainers are responsible for the kernel under their care, Linus Torvalds still runs the show.

So, as you can see, the title of the Economist article should have been "Open, as Always." Nothing about the role Linus plays in running the show has changed. And Wikipedia isn't run like that at all. For what Wikipedia is, though, it certainly works at least as accurately as the mainstream press, as the Economist article, I think, amply evidences. So what do we do with the mainstream press? Just keep trying to educate them, I guess. And when we read what they write, I think it's wise to reserve judgment on any conclusions we see. It might be true. Then again, it might be completely wrong information, as the SCO info in the Economist was and is. Funny thing. He could have just asked me, and I could have shown him the legal documents. So I think there is no excuse.

This isn't an attack on anyone, by the way. I am sure he is as nice a guy as you can find. The problem is the process. There is a shocking lack of accuracy in the media. I'm not at all kidding. Wikipedia has its issues too, I've no doubt. But that is the point. It has no greater issues than mainstream articles, in my experience. And you don't have to write articles like this one either, to try to straighten out the facts. Just go to Wikipedia and input accurate information, with proof of its accuracy.

If you would like to learn about Open Source, here's Wikipedia's article. Read it and then compare it to the Economist article. I think then you'll have to agree that Wikipedia's is far more accurate. And it isn't pushing someone's quirky point of view, held despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

If I wrote an article pointing out this many mistakes in a Wikipedia article, it would set off an orgy of antiWikipedia articles, I'm sure, all of which would use the errors as "proof" that the system doesn't work. Well, folks, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Neither system is without flaws, peculiar to its own methodology. Errors crop into anything humans write, no matter how many or how few are involved, because we are humans. Experts make mistakes too. And sometimes folks put a little spin on the ball, consciously or unconsciously. That's why Groklaw always provides urls to proofs, so you can check for yourself and make sure of the facts with your own eyes. If I make a mistake, I want you to find it, and the more of you there are looking, the more likely it is you will find the correct information so errors can be corrected. If truth is the goal, that's the only way to think.


The Economist Article: Looking at Open Source at a Tilt | 253 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Again, it's not *just* Open Source that this applies to
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 12:48 PM EST
I've worked in IT for decades, and I can tell you that the closed-source route
has no inherent guarantee of quality workmanship either, as anyone who's bought
more than two or three applications will doubtless know. There's a lot of
really terrible code out there, some of it selling for hundreds or thousands and
with no hope of being allowed to see, let alone fix, the source.

No matter what the source policy, quality comes from careful design, careful
testing, and above all caring that one's work is good.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic Here Please
Authored by: DBLR on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 12:50 PM EST

Please make your links clickable.



"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is
a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: DBLR on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 12:52 PM EST

If you find one post it here.



"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is
a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Economist Article: Looking at Open Source at a Tilt
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 12:59 PM EST
This sounds like one of those cases when facts that don't
fit the theory are just ignored. When that happens
there is usually an unspoken agenda that is not really
consistent with providing a totally honest and truthfull

[ Reply to This | # ]

Mainline media's future
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 01:14 PM EST
As can be seen from the referenced article, the mainline media seldom gets
things right. I learned that 25 years ago watching 60 minutes coverage of the
Salt Lake City floods. Living in SLC, one would expect that I would see some of
that flooding (if as 60 Minutes broadcast) on my way to work. Never happened.
The only time I saw water was when I went to Liberty Park and helped fill sand
bags. The impacted area was a very small portion of the city. Again, we see
the implied story being more important than the actual story. Thank you, PJ,
for Groklaw. While there are many blogs out there pushing various 'theories'
oblivious to the facts; Groklaw, I beleive, gives us a glimpse of the future.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Compain to The Economist
Authored by: Chris Lingard on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 01:18 PM EST

I notice that this article is anonymous, possibly written by a cub reporter, in a hurry, when the editor realised that they had a space to fill, This uninformed and unchecked article is too common, I find that best method is a polite written complaint to the editor.

So I suggest that we all write to:

The Economist

25 St James's Street

London SW1A 1HG

United Kingdom

and point out that error laden articles like this should have been checked; and this destroys any reputation that they may have had as a serious publisher.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 01:20 PM EST
PJ, I'm not sure that you can draw general conclusions about the governance of open source packages by looking at just one or two very well run projects. Linux and Apache, for instance, are well organized communities with checks and balances in place to apply quality assurance to their products.

But the other thousands of packages out there that constitute open source, ones that don't have large development communities, that aren't well organized, or that are simply code dumps of individual contributors, may not (I'm sure some do) have similar controls.

Open source is a broad tent.

Now, least you think I'm biased against open source - I'm not. Commercial software has exactly the same characteristic - some outstanding examples of how things ought to be done, and many, many more poor excuses that should be universally shunned.

So, sometimes, oversimplification leads to overgeneralization. It's quite unfair to say Open Source suffers from uneven quality control if you don't draw a comparison to the similar state of commercial off the shelf software. But that's called "spin".

From a security standpoint, it simply doesn't matter if the quality of one component, whether the Linux or Windows kernel, is good or not, as long as users, administrators, or distributors include code from other packages among the code they allow to run with system privileges. If a device driver, from who knows where doing who knows what, whether open source (but nobody looked) or closed (nobody disassembled) runs, your system belongs to that driver developer, because you trusted them to run their code on your system without any constraints. The problem is worse when you realize that source code inspection and testing without knowing what it's supposed to be doing (using formal designs, formal analysis and complete code correspondence - which are the requirements for A1 or EAL7 certifications) - are also useless. A thousand eyeballs are useless as a security measure - whether they're open or not, whether they're informed or not - against subversion threats.

I invite readers interested in the issues of subversion for the software industry to review "Subversion as a Threat in Information Warfare", Journal of Information Warfare, Volume 3, No.2, June 2004, pp. 52-65. Its lessons apply equally to commercial systems subject to motivated, adequately resourced and patient adversaries, whether terrorist, competitor or mobster.

[ Reply to This | # ]

If Wikipedia is total Chaos ....
Authored by: tizan on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 01:25 PM EST
Then I am all for total chaos.

I always find tonnes of useful stuff on wikipedia despite...the few well
publicized hiccups...

Has problems stopped us many of us still go on the roads despite
the fact that there will be thousand of accidents today and many people will
die. So does the economist say because there are issues with our roadways and
traffic we should stay home and close our roadways till a better way is found ?

No we use it and try to improve on it...wikipedia has issues but then lets
improve on it instead of saying encarta is the only way!!

tizan: What's the point of knowledge if you don't pass it on. Its like storing
all your data on a 1-bit write only memory !

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Seconded. - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 19 2006 @ 12:04 AM EST
The Economist Article: Looking at Open Source at a Tilt
Authored by: The Cornishman on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 01:47 PM EST
The impression I got reading the Economist article was that it was an attempt to
make people feel better about the unknown (open source? What's all that about?)
by telling them "There, there, it's a lot like the things you know
already". This is not Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt misinformation, it's
Creative Comfort Reassurance, but misinformation nonetheless. I wasn't sure
that he didn't "get it" when I read the article, which I did before I
read PJ's commentary, and when I read the latter I was surer that he does, to
some extent, get it, but the story he's trying to tell is "Don't worry, be

(c) assigned to PJ

[ Reply to This | # ]

Constant self-policing is required to ensure its quality.
Authored by: SpaceLifeForm on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 01:58 PM EST

Message to darkside:
The same applies to proprietary software.
The same applies to media reporting.

You (the darkside) fail on both counts.


You are being MICROattacked, from various angles, in a SOFT manner.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Letter to the Editor
Authored by: swehner on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:02 PM EST
Sent to, March 17, 2006

Reading the article "Open, but not as usual" in the Economist from
March 16, 2006, I found this section a little strange:

"This issue took centre stage in 2003, when a company called SCO sued users
of Linux, including IBM and DaimlerChrysler, saying that portions of the code
infringed its copyrights. The lines of programming code upon which SCO based its
claims had changed owners through acquisitions over time; at some point they
were added into Linux."

The SCO vs. IBM case is not over yet, indeed discovery has not completed. When
you write "at some point they [lines of programming code] were added into
Linux" could you provide evidence? As far as the court case goes I don't
think this has been established.

Of course, when you write "However, it is unclear how innovative and
sustainable open source can ultimately be." you are just filling the paper:
lots of issues are unclear, especially if one asks about the amount of
innovation and sustainability. Surely billions of lines of codes (my estimate)
can be looked at as impressive innovation, without even taking the functionality
in to consideration, and twenty (plus) years of open source development looks as
sustainable as anything we see in terms of modern technology.

Yours sincerely,

Stephan Wehner

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's all about the motive
Authored by: Jeffrey on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:04 PM EST
The KEY differences between "this" model or "that" model begin with, and are driven by, the motive behind the model.

The motive behind Groklaw is the truth. Groklaw is now and has always been a bastian for me because of the inherit self-policing to ensure that the truth is the #1 priority.

What is the motive behind the Economist? Obviously, profit. And while it CAN (and I suspect as a rule, does) print the truth, it is NOT the underlying motive behind the newspaper/web site. Normally, the truth and accuracy of a newspaper is what their reputation relies upon. So the question is what happens when the two motives conflict?

If the cost of determining the truth of a story far outweighs the weight, the value if you will, of the story once printed, will a for profit magazine forego the expense to get at the truth? I doubt it. The story will either be scrapped, edited into a summary or simply printed with inaccuracies. Is that what happened here? I certainly don't know. Is the length of time between PJ's interview and the date it was published an indicator of the article sitting on a shelf unedited and unchecked, and then suddenly used to fill a gap? Again, only the editorial staff knows.

That type of conflict does not happen here as there is no profit motive behind Groklaw. The ONLY conflict that I CAN see here is when we (collectively) choose to ignore the bad guy's (you know who you are) favorable truth. When they win, do we lose?

Everything that I've seen shows that the entire staff and the community go above and beyond what any "for profit" entity ever would to find the truth and document it. It's why I am here so often, and why I can easily dismiss the traditional media when they attempt to write about FOSS or most technical articles. They simply won't spend the time to really learn what they are talking about and they don't police themselves. PJ's final line of the article says it all.

If I make a mistake, I want you to find it, and the more of you there are looking, the more likely it is you will find the correct information so errors can be corrected. If truth is the goal, that's the only way to think.
Most if not all FOSS projects clearly state what the motive behind the project is. I know that some have lost their way during the process and are criticized for that. Some projects fork as a result. The simple fact that linux has as many distributions as it does without forking is a credit to Linus Torvolds and to those that see his vision for linux. And I am certain that this leaves some traditional media clueless trying to shoehorn FOSS into a traditional business model. Sorry folks, it just won't fit.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Maximising Greed
Authored by: kawabago on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:08 PM EST
The Economist defends the economic model that 'maximises shareholder value'
which we now know means 'maximising greed'. This approach to intellectual
property is under assault by collaboration because in the long run greed is very
harmful to the economy and to innovation. Since the Economist still believes
that greed should trump progress, they oppose and attack the rise of
collaboration everywhere. The Economist itself is under attack by collaborators
right here on Groklaw and elsewhere. Collaboration threatens greed at every
level and we can expect resistance to it everywhere that greed has gotten a

Greed is not a successful long term strategy because it pits the greedy against
everyone else. There are far too many of 'everyone else' for the greedy to
prevail, without help from politicians of course. Fortunately 'everyone else'
can go after politicians that support the greedy. So ultimately 'everyone else'
will prevail. Too bad it's such a painful process.

[ Reply to This | # ]

In defense of Wikipedia
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:15 PM EST
I go there first. I may verify and / or fact check, but those who don't
understand the power of collaboration, are truly dinosaurs and will find the
future increasingly uncomfortable, unintelligible, or worse.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wikipedia vs. Encyclopedia
Authored by: Tyro on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:21 PM EST
I'm only aware of one study comparing the accuracy of the Wikipedia to a commercial encyclopedia. It wasn't that favorable to the commercial encyclopedia. In fact, on a per word basis the Wikipedia was more accurate. So even using the Wikipedia mechanism isn't that bad. Using something similar, but with more Q/C mechanisms in place can only improve things. And for code, any coder who is interested can test it and file a bug report, whereas with an encyclopedia each topic has only a few people with in depth knowledge. This allows for a more distributed error checking and recovery mechanism than an encyclopedia is generally capable of. How many people can comment on the biology of llamas or 14th century coal mining techniques? Far fewer than can test whether a particular printer driver works. (And they have more pressing reasons to comment, also.)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wasn't it The Economist ...
Authored by: Wol on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:22 PM EST
That compared Wikipedia to the Brittanica, and concluded that as far as
scientific articles went, Wikipedia was the more accurate source? !!!

While I haven't read his article, it sounds like that reporter doesn't even read
his own rag!


[ Reply to This | # ]

The Cathedral and the Bazaar
Authored by: Nick_UK on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:31 PM EST
Pamela's observations here are effectively what Eric Steven Raymond said in the The Cathedral and the Bazaar writings:

The Cathedral and the Bazaar


[ Reply to This | # ]

Fact Checkers....
Authored by: Latesigner on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:34 PM EST
I'm sure the Economist can afford a few, in fact it badly needs them.
There was a time when writers at national magazines were backed up by an all
female army of librarians and fact checkers (the last were recent grads.),
before you start I once worked for Look, whose job it was to prevent stuff like
this from seeing the light of day.
They weren't always successful, not enough status with the guys upstairs, but
both this writer and his editor would have been told that the facts weren't
supporting the argument.

The only way to have an "ownership" society is to make slaves of the rest of us.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Economist Article.
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 02:42 PM EST
In reading the article it does seem to bring up the major issues which readers might be concerned with. Especially considering its intended audience of high income decision makers.

It doesn't seem to me that it is completely unbalanced. If I were a CEO who had heard only a little about Open Source I think this might make me want to look into it. For example immediately after the comments about openness being a vulnerability this paragraph appears;
One reason why open source is proving so successful is because its processes are not as quirky as they may first seem. ... And far from being a wide-open community, projects often contain at their heart a small close-knit group.(emphasis added)
This seems a reasonable description of the way many open source projects work. A "small close-knit group" is a fair approximation of Linus and his lieutenants, or Tridge and his team, to name a couple. The description of Mozilla's process takes the explanation a lot farther. It also dispels the picture of a lot of people sitting in dorm rooms emailing code to each other for fun. While some projects have had breakups and forks over the years often leading to separate projects (Samba and X/Org come to mind) most have remained remarkably coherent, even the forks have made contributions.

The reference to SCOG also points out Microsoft's less than obvious involvement and possible ulterior motives;
To skeptics, the suit seems designed to thwart the growth of Linux by spreading unease over open source in corporate boardrooms—a perception fueled by Microsoft's involvement with SCO. The software giant went out of its way to connect SCO with a private-equity fund that helped finance the lawsuits, and it paid the firm many millions to license the code.(emphasis added)
Wikipedia, while it is not a true open source project, like Apache or Linux, is perceived as something like one by many people and is intended to implement an open, collaborative model of information gathering and sharing (Similar in some ways to Groklaw). And to be truthful Wikipedia has attracted more than its share of wingnuts who have attempted to subvert its intention by either posting self serving "information", defacing articles or otherwise disrupting the overall effort. Yet the article goes on to say;
Still, the power of decentralized collaboration astounded everyone. After 20 days, the site had over 600 articles; six months later, it had 6,000; by year's end, it totaled 20,000 articles in a plethora of languages.(emphasis added)
There is even a chart showing the "Exponential Encyclopedia", illustrating the power of the open collaborative model.

He further quotes a Nobel winning Economist Ronald Coase and refers to the The Harvard Business Review (Philip Evans and Bob Wolf of the Boston Consulting Group) as advocating the open source methodology. The conclusion seems to be that everyone is acknowledging the power and success of Open Source including Toyota, Microsoft and Sun as companies which are, if not embracing Open Source, are least becoming more open that they had been due to the ascending influence of Open Source.

Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Economist loses its marbles
Authored by: grouch on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 03:04 PM EST

Took me 4 tries to validate it, but it works now:
The Economist loses its marbles

-- grouch

[ Reply to This | # ]

Doesn't seem *that* bad to me...
Authored by: darkonc on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 04:15 PM EST
Granted, it's nowhere near the quality needed to qualify for posting as a Groklaw article, but compared to some of the stuff I've seen in the local newspaper about stories that I've been on the inside of, it's not that far from the standard fare (say what you will about the standard fare).

Now, granted, he starts from the point of view that Open Source has some problems, but as I read thru the article, I got a strong sense that he felt that Open Source has risen to the challenges that it's own model presents. -- and even points out how one of "the most proprietary outfits of them all" -- Microsoft is now attempting to "cotton on to" the open source model, pointing out that "Open source could enjoy no more flattering tribute than that."

The usual path of a good narrative is: Setup, Introduce a conflict, resolve the conflict, conclusion.

  The setup is that Open Source is a powerful and valuable method that most of us probably use daily (possibly without realizing it).
  The conflict is that Open Source has some issues that arise from it's model that show more obviously than in proprietary models.
  He then describes how the Open Source community seems to be doing a good job of handling those 'apparent' issues.
  Then he concludes by saying that what were once the most staunch defenders of closed source are now starting to bend in the increasing wind.

Problems? yeah. On the other hand, I'm very far from considering him a dupe (much less a shill) of proprietary defeders like Microsoft.

If anything, I'd say that he seems more like a friend of Open Source who needs just a little bit more friendly education.

One of the things that I've learned is that to get someone to go from where they are to where you'd like them to be, you have to start by acknowledging the space where they currently are as being where they are (no matter how much you dislike it). Once you do that, you can more easily talk them thru the process of getting to where you want them to be.

Consider the case of a guide.. It's far easier to guide someone out of a dangerous spot by walking next to them. It's usually far more effective than doing it by phone. (done phone support -- it sucks. Far easier to do it in person).

The worst is ... "Turn to where you're supposed to be and start walking -- but don't do stupid things like stepping off the winding path." ( I've see the metaphorical equivalent to that far more often than I think I should have ).

I think that this Economist writer seems to be doing the 'guide' method. For someone who has been steeped in the MS Fud soup, he's simply acknowledging where they are, pointing out a few landmarks and walking them to a place where they can appreciate the beauty of Open Source.

And then quietly walking away.

Powerful, committed communication. Touching the jewel within each person and bringing it to life..

[ Reply to This | # ]

The press is often wildly inaccurate and stubborn
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 05:01 PM EST
Sometime in the late 1980s a plane crashed near Toronto' Pearson Airport. A
reporter got it in his mind that the cause may have been icing. Some Transport
Canada (similar to FAA) called the reporter and told him that there's no way it
could have been icing. It didn't matter. The reporter did not retract his
story and continued to espouse the icing theory. Of course, the report of the
accident investigation happened a long time later and was ignored. So, if you
were a member of the general public you would get the impression that small
planes crash, in the summer, shortly after takeoff, because of icing.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I don't get your point
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 05:09 PM EST
Are you saying that every other open source project is already as good at
vetting contributions as Linux as become, or are you saying that Linus's vetting
is unnecessary?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Poking the Chicken
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 06:13 PM EST
Around my humble abode we have a saying about 'poking the chicken' which
basically means we are saying things just to get a rise out of someone - teasing
with a hard edge.

The end of the Economist article reads like the author is 'poking the chicken'
of the F/OSS community: "Even Microsoft has increasingly made some products
open to outside review, and released certain code, such as for installing
software, free of charge under licensing terms whereby it can be used provided
enhancements are shared. “We have quite a few programs in Microsoft where we
take software and distribute it to the community in an open-source way,” gushes
Bill Hilf, director of platform technology strategy at the company. Open source
could enjoy no more flattering tribute than that."

Me thinks the anonymous Economist author is the dark product of a Dan Lyons
& Maureen O' Gara assignation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wikipedia is not an Open Source project
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 07:05 PM EST
"I have news for you. Wikipedia is not an Open Source project."

Neither's Groklaw. Yet I seem to remember somebody saying this not too long

"Sometimes people write to me and ask about doing a Groklaw T-shirt.
Groklaw is a noncommercial site, so I can't sell T-shirts, but I usually give
individuals who ask for permission my OK to do it just for themselves. And now,
when they ask me what I'd like it to say, here's my answer:

"Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal

So do you still endorse that quote? Or is there some hairsplitting distinction
between an open-source project and a project that applies the open-source

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why Wikipedia,OSS work & pitfalls
Authored by: art_hio on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 07:06 PM EST
The basic reason/rationale is most people are honest. Some statistics suggest
the average percentage of honest people is about 87%, at least for buying bagels
(See Freakonomics pg45-50) But it is indicative of peoples inate honesty.

Of course the problems start with the remaining 13%.

So one can see from simply weight of numbers, wikipedia should in general be a
good scheme. However, the problems revolve around specifics. If you will, a
determined "bad" person can dominate the converstion/result. We have
seen this occur here on groklaw in the early days. This is where "gate
keepers" come in. The approach used by Linus and Groklaw are similar, one
person(or several someones) act to review the contributions. Wikipedia is
currently exploring ways to do this. [perhaps they should consider the linux
approach: freeze the last edit as "stable" , and have a
"buggy" version available for edit]

In "good" newspapers and magazines, the editor and others are
suppossed to review the facts. But as we have seen, this does not appear to be
the case in several situations (fact checkers, etc. are an expense). The basic
facts may not line up with editorial desire of the magazine, so this can create
conflicts. It is the mark of a "good" news organization that shows the
facts as straight as possible and then adds there own editorials. Groklaw is an
example, as well as Wall Street Journal. Forbes is very suspect in my mind (also
Fox news).

There is a place for bright capable people that do not follow the crowd. (in my
view Wikipedia is a "crowd")
An example of bright people doing differently would be the Wright brothers. They
truly were very determined, scientific, and observant. Clearly they investigated
flight and determined how to best fly. Although many had studied wings and built
them. The Wright brothers observed control and power (i.e. the propeller) were
very important. They studied wings (although they did a poor job understanding
how to scale up), control (no one else thought about turning), and how to get
engine power to interact with the air (propeller). So by doing this they did
what no one else had been able to do. However, the next years also show why OSS
is a very good model. In the 1910 to 1930 there was a vast increase in the
capability of the airplane. But most improvement was done by other people. Once
the concept was shown, many people jumped on and improved on the concepts. Much
to the chagrin of the Wright brothers. They had the basic patents, but many
others were able to make better progress. (A french man made a simpler turning
control, aeilerons, the warp control of the Wright brothers was too cumbersum,
the wing structure was too little lift for the weight, the arrangement of the
wings and control surfaces in a canard was not as stable as the tractor
configuration, a clean single wing is better than a biwing with bracing, etc.)

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Economist Article: Looking at Open Source at a Tilt
Authored by: Yossarian on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 07:51 PM EST
The Economist: "This leaves projects open to abuse, either
by well-meaning dilettantes or intentional disrupters."

PJ: "First of all, Open Source, for example the Linux
kernel, has never been anything but controlled by Linus."

But Linus does not know "everything." E.g. if somebody will
contribute code which is owned by a third party, Linus may
miss that. That leaves Linux open for an attack by somebody
who may intentionally try to "contaminate" Linux.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Economist Article: Looking at Open Source at a Tilt
Authored by: cf on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 08:23 PM EST
The open-source method has vulnerabilities that must be overcome if it is to live up to its promise. For example, it lacks ways of ensuring quality...
No, it lacks what has been an acceptable measure of quality to traditional business types: a stamp of approval from the Quality Manager. It substitues a different measure of quality: acknowledement by the people who use it.

Just one question for the rubber stamp camp: How's that quality issue working out for you so far?

I'll bet Internet Explorer, the Denver Airport baggage handling software system, the Portland Water Bureau billing system, (this list could go on a long time...) all had more quality stamps than you can shake a slide rule at. Yet two out of three of those products could never be used, and Microsoft itself recommended we use the open source alternative to it's product because of security holes.

The open source development model doesn't guarantee quality products, but those lacking are either improved or die a deserving death. There is no such analog in the proprietary development model.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The right to secede
Authored by: funkyj on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 08:44 PM EST
One key point of open source that PJ did not touch upon is the ability of anyone
to fork their own project off on an existing open source project. Don't like
the licensing changes XFree86 has made? Fine, pick up their previous release
and use that as the basis for your project.

This is one of the greatest strengths of open source. The ability to fork
brings open source much closer to the ideal meritocracy than closed source. The
reason linux kernel development is so unified is because Linus and his team has
done such a good job. If one day that go rogue (XFree86) then someone else can
fork off their own project and win the public mindshare.

A current example is the spin offs from wikipedia that have tighter editorial
control. Apparently wikipedia's approach isn't that bad as none of these
spin-offs has taken the encyclopedia lead from wikipedia.

[ Reply to This | # ]

PJ: Time for a Letter to the Editor
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 09:58 PM EST
As a long-time Economist subscriber, I can tell you they're a lot more on the
ball than most of the media. A letter to the editor explaining how their
reporter deliberately dropped the ball might go a long way. Even if they don't
print it, it may prevent future such embarassments to them, and us.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wildly inaccurate press
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 11:07 PM EST

Back in the late '70's I worked as a budget examiner at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. My accounts included the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the District of Columbia, both of which received substantial attention from the press. When I was new at the job, I gave careful attention to making complete and accurate replies to reporters' questions, much as PJ did in this case. I was disappointed over time to discover that very little of what I told them ever seemed to affect what they printed. I finally concluded that the reporters were contacting me primarily in the hope that I would say something that would support the story they had already formulated and that could be attributed to a "White House source" (OMB is part of the Executive Office of the President). Having realized that, I was able to save myself considerable time and effort by simply refusing to talk to them. I also entirely lost faith in the press, and always suspend belief of what is written until and unless I can get independent corroboration. Given that, Groklaw has proven to be a revelation to me of how reportage can and should be done.


[ Reply to This | # ]

"Free Market" economy
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 17 2006 @ 11:11 PM EST
In a very real sense, the libertarian Free Market economy The Economist
advocates is a lot like FOSS. You know, there's no cetral planning, and a whole
bunch of people going in various directions, and things like that.

If FOSS doesn't work, surely Free Market doesn't work, either.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oh, the irony...
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 18 2006 @ 06:04 AM EST
This guy has got it so backwards it almost funny.

I'd say, if anything is changing, it is that commercial software is more and
more developed the open source way. Community based development and
collaborative development efforts are very much buzzwords even in large
corporations developing software, because it works.

This guy is a proponent for security by obscurity. By keeping things secret and
opaque, you hide away any problems as much as possible. This is the traditional
commercial approach (much practised by MS). Is this really better in the sense
that there really are fewer IP issues, than the open source approach, where
everyone can have a look at the code? Hardly!

It is much, much harder to make sure that closed source is in the free, since
there are so few, usually, checking it.
It only looks like it's better just because, as said, it's much harder to

And the wikipedia example is also quite funny. Compare it to software. Imagine
if you find a problem in an open source componen. You can fix it yourself or
hire someone to fix it, if it's not dealt with to your satisfaction by the
Try that approach with MS. They'd just laugh at you.

With the current IP regime, especially regarding patents, it is not unlikely
that there can crop up IP issues in open source. But, on the other hand, who
does not have IP problems? Just write a moderatly complex macro in Excel and you
probably have "IP issues", thanks to the abundance of completley
ludicrous software patents.

No, this whole article sounds just like some poor regurgitation of MS
"indemnification" campaign.
The article is in itself a good example of what works with wikipedia and what
doesn't in the commercial press.
With wikipedia, it doesn't matter how much you pay someone to put bogus
information there, someone with correct information can fix it pronto.
With the commercial press, you just have to pay more than the other guy. So much
better, isn't it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

indemnification and intellectual property
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 18 2006 @ 08:55 AM EST
"The open-source method has vulnerabilities that must be overcome if it is to live up to its promise. For example, it lacks ways of ensuring quality and it is still working out better ways to handle intellectual property."
A total distortion. For instance the Linux kernel is developed by a small group under the leadership of Linux Torvalds who has the final say as to what goes in. The same with bsdUnix. As for intellectual property violations, this is a bogus issue thought up and financed by a certain closed source company to scare people off Open Source. What indemnification did CitiBank get when its ATM system was compromised recently. What indemnification did CardSystems get when their entire creditcard database was compromised.

Why didn't you talk to any of the Open Source leaders before publishing this story.

CitiBan k


[ Reply to This | # ]

Open source won't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 18 2006 @ 09:40 AM EST
I read groklaw so much I have a link to the static headlines page, but this was
over the top.

I've worked on over 2 million lines of other people's code as a paid occupation.
Most of it proprietary code. I also almost exclusively use open source software
for my work as a scientist. Not because it has some great mystic virtue, but
because if it's broken I can fix it and if I need a new feature I can add it.
Exactly the same motivation as RMS, but w/o the obsessive bit. I send my
changes back not out of altruism, but rather to avoid the nuisance of merging
incompatible changes in the next release.

I just bought a Sun Opteron based system to run Solaris because I finally got
fed up w/ the random flakiness of Linux. Yes, Linux gives me the source code,
but it's really too much work to fix. And the design botches in Linux like the
boot time numbering of SCSI targets are really annoying. In large systems, the
mistakes reach through so much of the code, that, as a practical matter, they
can never be fixed.

I got a DEC Alpha running RH 5.1 back in Dec of 1998, but after spending several
hours tracking down and fixing a bug in the man(1) program late Christmas night
so I could read the man pages and fix my original problem, I decided to buy a
copy of the closed source Tru64 at ~$1000. I needed to do work, not get a 2nd
job fixing buggy code. Linux looks reliable to refugees from Windows, but to old
Unix hands it looks unstable and buggy.

Software is a tool, not a religion. If it's useful that's enough. If the
source is provided and of reasonable quality that is a useful trait. It
doesn't redeem bad code, but does redeem mediocre code. If the code is bad the
best answer is to delete the source and all executables. And I've actually told
that to paying clients when the situation warranted it.

I didn't see anything in the Economist article that said anything more negative
than "providing the source code doesn't turn a sow's ear into a silk

Writing about and using software is not the same as actually being able to read,
understand and modify it. The former is merely an expression of opinion, the
latter is an expression of fact. If you can't fix a program that is dumping
core, having the source is of no value other than to allow you to change support


[ Reply to This | # ]

Sorry, but PJ missed the point.
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 18 2006 @ 11:41 AM EST

After reading the above article, my faith in humankind is completely destroyed. When even Growlaw -- as an above commentator pathetically noted: motivated by The Truth -- fails to understand the article, what else can we hope for? I mean, how complicated is it to understand the Economist article?

Let's have a look at the second paragraph. I made the special stuff bold but don't overview the paratheses from the original author:

The “open-source” process of creating things is quickly becoming a threat—and an opportunity—to businesses of all kinds. Though the term at first described a model of software development (where the underlying programming code is open to inspection, modification and redistribution), the approach has moved far beyond its origins. From legal research to biotechnology, open-business practices have emerged as a mainstream way for collaboration to happen online. New business models are being built around commercializing open-source wares, by bundling them in other products or services.

The last sentence of the paragraph is most noteworthy:

Though these might not contain any software “source code”, the “open-source” label can now apply more broadly to all sorts of endeavour that amalgamate the contributions of private individuals to create something that, in effect, becomes freely available to all.

These are clear signs that the Economist article is not about Open Source Software. But Pamela Jones decides to ignore them, and made it a conflict story. The fact that the article in the Economist talks about Wikipedia, too, could have made her wonder. It didn't. Instead, she tries to get the facts right:

I have news for you. Wikipedia is not an Open Source project. It's a cousin, maybe.

Gosh, and the Economist article didn't say anything different. In fact, it got it right. In the first try. Every careful reader of the second paragraph would have noted it. The article is about the Open Source Method. Got the distinction?

In the end, even Groklaw manages to write a really long article about the only inaccuracy it could find. Indeed, IBM was not sued because it was a Linux user. OK, and who cares? I mean, compare this to the stuff Groklaw got wrong about the Economist story.

The Groklaw article shows that perfect accurcy sometimes means "boring to read". This, at least, would have probably been the case if a lesser talent then Pamela Jones would have written it.

To pick up the pathetical tone of some of Groglaw's fanboys: Maybe that's the fate of warriors. In the end, they just see enemies everywhere. I could live with such a pathetic explanation. However, the real problem is that all the Groklaw readers -- remember: Groklaw readers because of The Truth -- couldn't see anything else but what they wanted to see: "Calls itself The Economist; gotta be business people, gotta be bad!"

If Groklaw is really about The Truth, Pamela Jones would admit that she mixed it up. At least, this time. And maybe she has the heart to apologize as well.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Economist Article: Looking at Open Source at a Tilt
Authored by: blacklight on Saturday, March 18 2006 @ 09:49 PM EST
From the Economist article: "There are two doubts about its staying power.
The first is how innovative it can remain in the long run. Indeed, open source
might already have reached a self-limiting state, says Steven Weber, a political
scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of “The
Success of Open Source” (Harvard University Press, 2004). “Linux is good at
doing what other things already have done, but more cheaply—but can it do
anything new? Wikipedia is an assembly of already-known knowledge,” he

Steven Weber is actually complaining that Wikipedia is only "an assembly of
already-known knowledge". Just what does Steven Weber think and expect an
encyclopedia to be, if not "assembly of already-known knowledge"? If
Steven Weber needs more knowledge than assemblies of already-known knowledge,
then I suggests that he read Nostradamus for the knowledge he is looking for,
and that he stay well away from encyclopedias.

Steven Weber's comment that "Linux is good at doing what other things are
done but more cheaply - but can it do anything new?" clearly shows why he
should not comment on those subjects he knows not much about. Survey after
survey of those firms that have migrated to Linux report that those firms did
not migrate over the money but over the freedom. At this moment, Linux is the
workhorse platform of choice for heavy duty commercial websites, supercomputers,
IP telephony, embedded electronics and animation. Even so, Linux is far less an
innovation than a stable, robust and secure (when properly configured) platform
for innovation - which is what we expect of enterprise-grade operating systems

The comment that Open Source has reached a self-limiting state would be true
only if the commercial software vendors' products meet the needs of the
marketplace. Open Source is growing stronger because it is quite clear that the
commercial software vendors, as an aggregate, are clearly failing to meet the
needs of the marketplace. As long as Open Source seeks to meet the needs of the
marketplace, there will always be innovation in Open Source.

One of the insulting innuendoes of the Economist article is that there is no
quality control in Open Source: if this were true, I doubt that IBM would be
basing so much of its consulting business on Open Source software, that Wall
Street firms would be running Linux and that the Federal government agencies
would be running Linux. And in fact, why would businesses be adopting Open
Source methodologies, if these Open Source methodologies were critically
deficient in quality control? If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of
flattery, then Open Source is being flattered to the max.

The author of this Economist article would have served his readers far more
effectively by serving up the truth about how Open Source works rather than how
he thinks Open Source works.

Know your enemies well, because that's the only way you are going to defeat
them. And know your friends even better, just in case they become your enemies.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Economist Article: Looking at Open Source at a Tilt
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 19 2006 @ 11:25 AM EST
If anyone knows anything about science and the process of peer review you'd know
that self policing is the way science advances. Open Source is a science model
of peer review. One submits an idea or code, other review, test and a dicision
is made to accept or reject. The quality of open source code tends to be better
sheerly because others are going to read and critique it. Who review
proprietery code at all? The users report things that don't work but they don't
see the code and the vendor may or may not do anything about it.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Some further points
Authored by: mpellatt on Monday, March 20 2006 @ 04:21 AM EST
I finally got around to looking at the article. Three points sprang immediately to mind:

i) MySQL is a long way from a typical Open Source software project, so is not the best example to pick - unless of course you want to find an atypical example to bolster a dubious argument :-)

ii) "Of the roughly 130,000 open-source projects on .... only a few hundred are active". This proves what, exactly ?? A commercial entrepreneur is generally considered to be successful if 10% of his projects are successful. In many ways, SourceForge is "open entrepreneurship" - every attempt is there for all to see. 10% of 130,000 is, err 1300 - looks like "a few hundred" to me. That says to me that open-source develeopment works well - it survives comparison with other models.

iii) I really think the definition of open-source gets stretched beyond the limit in this article - it seems to almost say that any non-commercialised knowledge can be defined as open source. Sounds like basic education is open-souce......

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Economist Article: Looking at Open Source at a Tilt
Authored by: iraskygazer on Monday, March 20 2006 @ 03:45 PM EST
This article leads to a very deep philosophical discussion. But there is a very
easy way to counter what is said in the article. Ask this question: Why is the
open source changing?
Answer: It is changing because of the legal issues developing due to the power
and monetary grab that has been established by proprietary industries. Plan and
simple, the open source community has to protect itself from the selfishness and
greed of large corporate entities. Without attention to the legal barriers being
established via the new IP craze, the open source movement will end up being
under the control of corporations. It is very important that those who
contribute to the open source community continue to pay close attention to the
proprietary industries to ensure open source isn't boxed into a small corner of

Thanks to Groklaw we have a meeting place to discuss the developing legal
issues related to open source development. Let's keep this site alive and work
together to prevent the trends represented in the Economist article from having
any lasting impact.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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