[K12OSN] OT: Open Source counter-arguments

Brad Thomas bthomas at bhbl.org
Sun Jul 15 03:05:06 UTC 2007

"Support list for open source software in schools." <k12osn at redhat.com>
>So which would you rather be remembered for: making a ton of money
>selling stuff that didn't work that well or changing the world by
>empowering everyone with tools they can use and modify?

This question made me think of the iPod (and Steve Jobs) -- does it (he)
fit either category? I don't think it (he) does. It's great hardware and,
combined with iTunes (and the fact that Jobs got major corporations to
agree to distribute their music on-line), it created a cultural revolution
(podcasting, etc.). The iPhone may have similar effects. Jobs wants to
both create great products and make money. He benefits, but so do
consumers who buy the iPod.

As for the original question, I don't know that I would even bother
responding to that post. That guy and you (or anyone else who really gets
FOSS -- which is more about "open" than "free," though the "free" is still
very important) operate with very different basic assumptions (and maybe
understandings -- for example, I wonder if that post was written by a guy
who actually codes and experiences the simple joy of writing a script that
solves a problem or adds a useful feature to another program). He doesn't
get the "open" part, but he also doesn't get the information/digital
economy part -- code (like other information) can move anywhere almost
immediately for almost no cost (as you stated -- no marginal cost), and
for many different reasons. The kid who wrote the code that led to Kaaza,
Limewire, and other p2p software was angry about Napster getting shut down
(he posted his code that very day). Torvalds simply saw a need and filled
it. Others put out open source code simply to get the ball rolling on a
project in the hopes that others will do additional work that they
themselves do not want to do (but want to use). Imagine if Mother Teresa
was a coder and did her best to help the poor by writing code instead of
providing food and shelter (I am sure there are a few people like that
around). My point is that the original intentions often don't matter --
digital media combined with worldwide networks equals fast and vast
transformation that combines open and closed systems (Apple's OS X is
built on top of Unix -- is it open or closed?), paid-for and free
software. A debate framed as: "Open source software simply copies/doesn't
copy paid software," in my view, isn't worth having. From an educator's
perspective the only question is: What is the cost/benefit of this
technology in terms of making students as capable (informed, skilled,
etc.) as possible?

Cheers, Brad


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