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[ossig] Open source needs culture club
Open source needs culture club
November 09, 2005, 15:40 GMT
Our survey of official attitudes to open source has revealed a whole
spectrum of responses, from excitement through to hostility. The more
logical may be confused by this range of reactions. The arguments for and
against open source all ostensibly centre around good, solid facts —
capital and operational expenditure, security, flexibility,
interoperability — and these don't change much between territories.
Software is software and open source is built by people who understand
software very well.
What these Spock-like individuals may miss is that government is not a
logical entity, for all it operates under that fig leaf — it's a cultural
creation and thus very sensitive to culturally tuned inputs. In the new
European democracies, for example, a suggestion that open source harks back
to communism will do far more harm than any number of spreadsheets can repair.
It's no good complaining about this: it's far better to roll up one's
sleeves and get stuck in. Microsoft maintains large teams of lobbyists and
spends many millions each year on influencing official policy around the
world — and open source has neither the cash nor the cohesion to mimic that.
Proponents of open source shouldn't despair: the whole movement is a
dazzling demonstration that there are other ways to get good results,
politically as well as technically. The rejection by the European
parliament of the software patents proposal is one example of this, but
it's a mistake to see that as anything more than a skirmish. Such successes
need to be built on, their lessons learned and the enthusiasm used to
prepare for the next fight.
That means educating the politicians and their supporters in ways attuned
to the local culture and even getting actively involved with one party or
another. Although for open source supporters party politics might seem an
unpleasant idea — iconoclasm is second nature to many.
Take comfort from the fact that Microsoft felt exactly the same way in the
days when it was so geeky that it neither understood nor cared about the
machinations of power. That changed overnight when the company was found
guilty of anti-trust violations and Gates saw that politics was a game he
couldn't afford not to play.
Which is just as true for everyone else. Making the best software is only
one part of the equation: understanding the people who have to decide about
it is just as important. Culture, not compilers, is the next big hack.
Regards, /\_/\ "All dogs go to heaven."
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