Back in 2015, I attended an event in Wellington, New Zealand called Open Source Open Society. It was unlike any other open source event I’ve been to. The focus wasn’t on technology, and the attendees weren’t primarily techies. Instead, the event gathered techies, creatives, people working in the social sphere, and folks working in government to learn about and discuss how open source can change society.
If you’re interest, you can read my recap of the event. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you.
Done? Then let’s move along.
Open Source Open Society got me thinking yet again about what open means.
Technology drew me to open source. What kept me there was more than the technology. It was the community and the idea that open source could be far more than code.
So, what does open mean? Here are a few thoughts:
Open means access to data. Specifically, data the governments collect. About everything. As a developer, as an activist, as a journalist, as a citizen you should be able to peer behind the curtain and see how governments are using tax dollars. You should be able to get numbers and statistics that can help you pinpoint problems and find solutions to those problems. You should be able to use data to build tools that can help make cities, nations, and societies better.
Open means breaking down barriers, tearing down silos. It means sharing information with peers and colleagues. It means teaching others your kung fu (whatever that kung fu is). The goal? To make your community, your company, your project, your family a better place. To help everyone make better decisions, to share and spread ideas, to make people just a little more self sufficient.
Open means inclusion. At Open Source Open Society, Jessica Lord (a developer at GitHub) said If open source is for everyone, it should look like anyone. No matter who you are, not matter what level of technical knowledge or ability you have something to contribute. You have an opinion or an idea. You have a voice. And your gender, race, age, or beliefs shouldn’t be a barrier to participating. In anything.
Something Dave Lane of the New Zealand Open Source Society said sums up the meaning of open for me: Openness is essentially a demonstration of love for the world.
I can’t add anything to that, so I’ll end it here.