[Discuss] discuss Digest, Vol 9, Issue 29

Matt Maier blueback09 at gmail.com
Thu Feb 28 22:39:28 UTC 2013

> Do we succinctly define the rule which one uses to measure the openness of
> the design such that anyone could come to the same conclusion, or do we
> rely on a panel of experts at a governing body to make the decision? I feel
> in many ways, that an elephant this discussion is leading us to.
> Chris

I think that's the crux of the matter right there. It would be nice to
arrive at a conceptual structure that is intuitive and easy for everyone to
apply in the same way even when they're on their own, rather than having
something arbitrary imposed by an organization.

However, I think that we're going to end up with both, at a minimum, and
probably several versions of both, no matter how hard the community tries
to come to a consensus. By its very nature open source is ad-hoc or
anarchistic. The whole point is to encourage and empower people to do more
or less whatever they personally think will be valuable.

For one standard to catch on it would have to be valuable to an awful lot
of different entities with different goals and different contexts. I
suspect that's not going to happen. Why? Because...

> It's clear that the needs of businesses are different than the needs of
> individuals, and I think most of the resultant thread(s) are on their way
> to establishing what businesses can do.
> Cameron
...of this question. We've already identified two groups with obviously
different needs. Businesses have to pull in at least enough money to cover
their costs and risks; individuals don't. The need to generate a certain
level of profit has to override other priorities. If it doesn't the
business will simply disappear. If being "totally open" conflicts with
"minimally profitable" then profit will have to win. Individuals can try to
coerce and encourage businesses to be as open as possible, but at the end
of the day their priorities are fundamentally different.

Maybe the definition can just distinguish between something that is "open"
enough to not be proprietary but is closed enough to sustain the business
(better than nothing) and something that is "open" in the sense that it's
released by an individual who doesn't have any interest in turning a profit.

It would be a reasonable tradeoff. A business wouldn't get the prestige and
street-cred of being "fully open" but on the other hand individuals are
notoriously bad about making their "truly open" project truly useful.
Businesses are invested in writing and maintaining documentation, and a
forum, and support so that they can grow a community. Individuals tend to
get bored and wander off to do other things. So if the community can agree
to not stigmatize "less than totally open" they get the benefit of
companies that are mostly open and stick around. That way businesses
wouldn't feel the need to scramble to defend their openness and the OSHWA
stamp of approval wouldn't turn into a tit-for-tat nitpicky argument.
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