Friday, April 3, 2009

Sharing: The Good Spirit of Open Source

Sharing is a good thing. Every spring one of the good things the garden shares at the very start of the new season is the first snow drops. Their early arrival makes them special.

Open source too is fundamentally about sharing: the sharing of software. Earlier this week, Bjorn blogged about his personal view regarding "open source products." I agree, open source is not about products. It's about sharing what you create for free. Now there's a loaded word. In this case it means free as in freedom, i.e., the freedom to ignore anyone else in the universe who might take issue with what you shared with them for free. Hello? Did you noticed the $0 price tag dudes and dudets?! If you get nothing of value you've gotten exactly what you paid for. Of course everyone is more than free to be irrelevant as well. Ignoring the community is a most excellent way achieve irrelevance. Feel free!

In the end, the value of sharing is greatly enhanced when others partake. I'd like to think that when you share your software, you try---another loaded word; to try is a lie---to ensure that the things you share have "true value." Perhaps I project too much? Providing "true value" takes effort. It's a burden of responsibility not to be taken lightly. Life is a bounty but comes complete with a great many burdens that ought not to be taken lightly. Gardens, on the other hand share their bounty with no sense of obligation, like these crocuses, though the crocuses do anticipate pollinators will share their mobility.

When others use the software you share with them for free, they can help shoulder the burden of responsibility. They might shoulder it in recognition of the benefit received from sharing it for free in the first place. An excellent excellent example of that principle at work is seen in 270870. Achim Demelt shared his time and deep analytical insight to a cast light on a challenging technical problem. It's quite remarkable, and not just in my opinion. When you stop to consider that all the people and organizations in the community---those who have contributed and those who have not---all benefit from individuals like Achim sharing solutions to hard problems, you will have understood the true value of sharing in the context of open source. Social software indeed.


pookzilla said...

I am totally painting those.

Ed Merks said...

Oh sure, and when you sell your paintings will I get a cut? Or more likely, when I buy them will I get a discount?! You're definitely a budding talent!!