[Discuss] discuss Digest, Vol 10, Issue 77

Matt Maier blueback09 at gmail.com
Sun Mar 17 13:23:25 UTC 2013

Huh. His complaint seems to be specifically directed at the word "open"
hanging out there by itself. Maybe in that sense "open source" is still a
perfectly good phrase because it specifies what is expected to be "open"
and how "open" works in that situation.

Technically "open source" has a much longer history in the intelligence
world than the technology world. I wonder if they're quietly complaining to
each other about how the meaning is changing and getting confused.

Morozov's got a new book to flog that just happens to be on the same

Along those lines, he's got a chapter on openness (ironically served up by
Google's habit of being "open" enough to allow previewing of books) but it
doesn't seem to actually have anything to do with "open source." It would
be more accurate to say that he's got a problem with the idea of too much
transparency in government.

His use of Defense Distributed to link "open source" to "transparency" is
quite good. Defense Distributed is an ideologically motivated group of
activists who are using the mechanism of open sourcing easily manufactured
plans to achieve the political objective of rendering gun control laws
irrelevant. However, since he wrote a book on the subject I can't give him
credit for ignorance when he actively confuses the ideas of "open source"
and "transparency." Morozov says, "*One doesn’t need to look at projects
like Defcad to see that “openness” has become a dangerously vague term,
with lots of sex appeal but barely any analytical content*." He isn't
bringing more clarity to the discussion, he's intentionally increasing the
vagueness. When Defense Distributed says their work is "open source" they
mean very specifically in the "open source software" sense that he mentions
in the article. They do not mean in the "transparent government" sense he
writes about in his book. They aren't pushing for transparent government
records like some activist in Argentina (an example from the book) they are
trying to create a genuinely new piece of technology and then, as is their
prerogative, release the intellectual property under an open license.
That's a textbook case of "open source software" and it's disingenuous of
Morozov to pretend otherwise just to segue to the subject he wants to talk

Maybe this is too harsh a criticism based on one article and one chapter,
but he seems to be abusing the very lack of specificity he's complaining
about. For what it's worth, he might not like technologists, but I don't
like anecdotalists. The problems of the world cannot be solved by
technology. But, they also can't be solved by someone stringing together a
dozen anecdotes and pretending that a point spontaneously emerged. I do
know about Defense Distributed, and he's misrepresenting them, so it makes
me wonder how many other anecdotes he's twisting to get onto the public
speaking circuit.

Anywho...just one more example of how open source needs a strong community
voice. It would be great if a recognized and respected institution (like
OSHWA) could give the NYT a new article to clarify the mistakes in that one.


> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2013 18:57:13 -0400
> From: Catarina Mota <catarina at openmaterials.org>
> To: The Open Source Hardware Association Discussion List
>         <discuss at lists.oshwa.org>
> Subject: [Discuss] Open and Closed
> Message-ID:
>         <CAH-asVZwkq=
55rmDd7ut4HAQCtUDEqT0OrrdWWTbnv2+p+aXjg at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> Provocative, not very well grounded, but interesting nevertheless - and
> related to the discussion we've been having about what it means to label
> something as "open source."
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