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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."
dinesh@alphaque.com                (0 0)    http://www.alphaque.com/
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