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Re: [ox-en] John Mark Walker: There Is No Open Source Community

Geert Lovink wrote:
'Open source is not a religion. It is not an ideology. It can be used  for
both good and bad. It does not inhabit the higher moral ground, nor is it a
more ethical way to conduct business. It just is, and it will continue  to
grow and expand.' page=1

Interesting bit of flamebait there (by which I mean, literally, bait for flames, not necessarily intentionally laid). He is right, of course, to say "let's look at the economics - open source is not some free-floating ideology that's taken root in software producers' minds, disconnected from economics". Of course that's true.

But really his essay is quite amusing. He says essentially that the commonly-repeated history of open source is all wrong because it would have happened anyway, even if Stallman and Torvalds had never been born - and those supposedly key people are just epiphenomena - like ripples on an ocean (well, he doesn't put it that strongly, but that's the flavour of it).

This reminds me of Noam Chomsky's comment that (paraphrasing) businesspeople can be quite Marxist in their outlook, even though they would never call it Marxism.

What I mean is, historical materialism: the idea that technology [Marxists tend to put here "means of production", but this is inaccurate, because the Internet is not accurately described as a means of production] overwhelmingly determines the course of history.

In this case, the technology being the internet, which has made selling general purpose software an increasingly unviable proposition (monopolies and quasi-monopolies excepted). Of course this is a simplification, but it has some force to it.

But I don't think he's correct to so denigrate the influence of key meme propagators like Bruce Perens, Linus Torvalds and so on (and I expect that someone like ESR will shortly rush in - figuratively speaking - to point out the historical facts, far more abley than I am able to do so here.) Firstly, I don't believe it is correct, as he claims, that everyone in IT was hot-footing their way towards open source before the Open Source Institute started promoting it as a named meme (indeed some, like SCO, still don't seem to "get it"). And after all: even if we broadly accept Walker's view that open source is essentially a business innovation (which is ridiculous because it neither originated in business nor is exclusively produced by businesses, as he implicitly acknowledges but tries to cover up with spurious "economic" language) - but even if we accept that, business innovations still require _people_ to champion them, to be brave enough to battle the conservatism in the industry, to put their reputation on the line, etc.

Even if it is true that someone else would have had those same ideas eventually, even if someone else would have promoted them, even if history would have turned out slightly differently but gradually turned towards open source without the creation of Linux... even granting all those things, the work of these key figures - and other early meme spreaders whose names we _don't_ hear of because they're not famous - was tremendously important.

At the time.

However, at the same time, historical questions such as these are not so important for Oekonux, IMO.

Contact: projekt

Thread: oxenT03138 Message: 3/7 L1 [In index]
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