Open vs. Open – The Shocking Truth

“One particular debate, or perhaps, a point is confusion, is around the word ‘open’.”

So begins an interesting post on Open Government, Open Standards, Open Data and Open Source by Adobe’s “evangelist for open government solutions”, Bobby Caudill.

Try and ignore the irrational religious connotations around the use of the word “evangelist” and focus on the argument Caudill and many others make. It goes a little like this:

“Open source advocates say their way is the only true way to openness. This is false. Open standards, open data and open government don’t rely on open source at all.  Indeed open government is about culture not technology.”

There are a number of flaws in this argument. The first is the initial strawman, presenting a case that not many in the open source software movement have ever made.

The another flaw is pretending that “openness” like “freedom” is a specific, measurable point. There is no absolute point at which a box can be ticked and “openness” achieved. There is a continuum of openness, just as there is a continuum of freedom.

If a government or organisation wants to be open then the more they can back this up with actions the more likely it is that they will achieve openness. If they consistently chose to embrace openness in their technology, licensing, data, standards and, gasp, software it is more likely that they will be more open than an organisation that simply announces it has achieved openness because data set ‘x’ has been made publicly available in a certain format at a given point in time. The latter case is certainly a bit more open than the government that did not release the data set but it can hardly claim to be far along the spectrum of achieving a wider degree of openness.

What has been shown over and over is culture that drives open source software does indeed lead to higher degrees of openness, whether it applies to the implementation of and adherence to open standards or production of data or running of organisations, such as Albany Senior High School.

My question back to Bobby Caudill is this. With all this talk of openness, why do you continuously try and make “open source” a dirty phrase? With all that talk it is inevitable that someone says the obvious…”open source has and does all this, especially the culture, why are you ignoring it?”

But be careful stating the blimmin obvious, it can have a shockingly unexpected result.

Frisky and Mannish demonstrate