Category Archives: Open Source

The Success of Open Source

Steven Weber

In Steven Webers 2004 book “The Success of Open Source” he describes the history, the social structure and the economical and political ways of open source.

But most importantly he identifies open source not as something particular to software development, but as a way of organizing and therefore the open source principles have potential to influence the structures of society in general. Weber can be quoted the following on page 224:

“Like many elements of the Internet economy, the media sorrounds open source software with an overblown mix of hype and cynicism. These are short-term distractions from a profound innovation in production processes. (…)

Open Source is not a piece of software, and it is not unique to a group of hackers. Open Source is a way of organizing production, of making things jointly. (…)

The success of open source [think of the widespread of Apache servers, the Firefox browser and omnipotent Linux OS] demonstrates the importance of a fundamentally different solution, built on top of an unconventional understanding of property rights configured around distribution. And open source uses that concept to tap into a broad range of human motivations and emotions, beyond the straightforward calculations of salary for labour. And it relies on a set of organizational structures to coordinate behavior around the problem of managing distributed innovation, which is different from division of labor.

None of these characteristics is entirely new, unique to open source, or confined to the Internet. But together, they are generic ingredients of a way of making things that has potentially broad consequences for economics and politics.”

Jeffrey Sachs on Open Source Politics

Jeffrey SachsIn my latter post I described the case of Open Source Society and what learnings there is from the Open Source Movements to use throughout society.

One principle is the famous quote from internet pioneer David D Clark:

We reject: kings, presidents and voting.
We believe in: rough consensus and running code.

It describes the leadership in Open Source Movements. In 2007 economist Jeffrey Sachs touches upon this in his talks on BBC Radio 4s Reith Lectures, when he can be quoted this:

We are entering I believe a new politics, and potentially a hopeful politics. I’m going to call it open-source leadership. If Wikipedia and Linux can be built in an open source manner, politics can be done in that manner as well. We are going to need a new way to address and to solve global problems, but our connectivity will bring us tools unimaginable even just a few years ago. I’m going to try to explain how this can be done, how without a global government we can still get global co-operation, how initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals can be an organising principle for the world — though there is no single implementing authority — and how it is possible to coalesce around shared goals. I am going to explain how scientists can play a fundamental role in this, such as they do in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC is a good example of how a rough consensus is reach when:

(…) there are over 1200 independent scientific authors and 2500 reviewers who have taken part in the preparation of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007.(1)

If the COP15 will produce an tolerable agreement, then IPCCs work will be an succes. Jeffrey Sachs continues on open-source global cooperation:

I am arguing for open-source global cooperation as well, meaning a system in which all sectors are invited to offer solutions, under the guidance of an agreed set of targets. Starting with shared goals, backed up by regular and rigorous feedback from expert reviews, we can engender a worldwide outpouring of ideas, actions, and commitments from all parts of society – business, non-governmental organizations, and international agencies. Governments can stand ready to bring solutions to scale, through public finance and other kinds of incentives.(2)