Thursday, 23 July 2009

The True Meaning of "Open"

I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease. I believe in open development, and that very much involves not just making the source open, but also not shutting other people and companies out.

There are ‘extremists’ in the free software world, but that’s one major reason why I don’t call what I do ‘free software’ any more. I don’t want to be associated with the people for whom it’s about exclusion and hatred.

— Linus Torvalds, Linux Magazine, via Open Source to Go!

I can totally identify myself with what LT said. I'd say that hatred is actually one of the worst emotions the mankind has. It blinds your rational thinking, makes you do things for which other people will dislike you, and in the end it will destroy yourself. To quote from Buddhist text:
Not by hate is hate defeated;
Hate is quenched by love.
This is the eternal law.

— Dhammapada, v.5

While I deem this to be a little far-fetched (as love is also blind) it basically grasps the core of the problem. Hate is not defeated by another hate. You won't defeat Microsoft by hating them. Well, they pose themselves in the role of the archenemy of Linux, but that might change. Our ultimate goal is not to defeat Microsoft and their Windows, the mantra of open source is about being open to others, sharing your ideas, your code. There is nothing about "fight" or animosity. It's a grave pity that with expansion of Linux, people not believing in this mantra appeared and our communication channels are being slowly infested by posts filled with hatred, animosity, personal insults and trolls.

We should all remember that the world open does not contain these emotions. By showing hatred or animosity towards others you are distancing yourself from being open, you close yourselves in your shell and that will eventually lead to your loss as to the loss of the thing you originally wanted to protect.

I believe similar ideas are in the core of many Asian martial arts. For example in 合気道 (合 – ai – joining, unifying, harmonizing, 気 – ki – spirit, life energy, 道 – dō – way, path) you have to became one with the enemy to master the techniques. The goal is not to the beat the attacker, the goal is to disarm (or dispose of if you wish) the attacker without hurting him.

Similarly by contributing to open source and not showing hatred against our "enemies" we can become stronger and in the long way win the "war". And winning here does not mean that open-source will be everywhere, it means that those who oppose us now will acknowledge us either as partners or as equal competitors. We do not need to lower ourselves to their level to "win".

Anyway, the basic premise of today's blog-post is that being open also means being tolerant and cooperative. These stands on a much higher moral level than hatred, FUD, … They are also vital for keeping the open-source community healthy. They are also one of the reasons I use and contribute to Fedora. It's four foundations contain these — freedom, friends, features, first.


Anonymous said...

It is very easy to misuse trust. Any multi-billion industry in a major conflict with Open Source is a risk factor and has to be considered as such.

Microsoft is mostly special because of their market position. Standards, cooperation, openness, and so on might not have the same focus in their position.

Governments and large to huge excisting and potential Microsoft customers are the ones that have the power to push for cooperation and so on.

Any company in their position might workaround such a push by delivering by the words of their customers without delivering the deeper meaning.

Microsoft as a company have the money to buy up enough strategic patents to make a modern Open Source desktop more or less impossible in several parts of the world. Communities, governments, and large to huge customers have to constantly keep a open eye on potential issues.

I believe the open source community will continue even if it becomes directly illegal, but a underground hard core open source warez scene will not have resources or appeal of today.

It is only community campaigning, customer pressure, and government politics that keeps open source as today possible in the age of the cooperate giants.

nicu said...

I think is healthy to have a full spectrum of opinions in the FLOSS world, from "extremist zealots" to "Microsoft wannabes".

Some vocal "extremists" are useful for not letting the other's vigilance sleep.

Anonymous said...

When you have to start paying for linux and the gpl is gone, do not come crying to me.