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Some notes about ‘open’

Posted: December 18th, 2009   |   Category: Blog | Labs | Strategy | Tools

A few days ago, I blogged about my crisis related to losing data and I mentioned that I’d be looking at efforts across the country (or elsewhere) to create an open environment.

First off, what is ‘open’?

I won’t actually pretend to be an authority (at least, yet).  For a really good detailed read on what open is all about, check out David Eaves’ site & blog. He is easily THE authority.

However, if you don’t have several hours to commit to reading his stuff, I’ll try to summarize what I know about open.

Generally, there are two streams:

  1. The use of open-source technology for computers and hardware management
  2. As an institution, making information and data available to the public.

Both offer their challenges, particularly when speaking with experts at institutions like universities, cities or even some businesses.

With respect to the adoption and use of open-source technologies, the central question tends to be ‘who will support me when things go wrong?’.  It’s a good question, with a good answer:  there are thousands of support groups, sites with documentation and even commercial enterprises committed to making this work.

It’s the latter ‘definition’ of open that makes people cringe even more and ask questions like the following:

  • ‘Why would we make our data available to the public?’
  • ‘What is someone does something ‘weird’ with public data?’
  • ‘Why should someone else make money off public information?’

Take heart.  When social came along, sweeping most people off their feet (still), those who sold products and services had the same questions.  Most of them can be boiled down to a single word:  control.

Those who are in control don’t relish the idea of relinquishing control.  They want to continue with the ‘father knows best’ attitude and hope that we will all get distracted by some other new mega-trend.

However, open is just starting to get legs, so expect it to stay.  Open offers several massive unprecedented advantages to ‘closed’ or proprietary solutions and mindsets:

  • Cost-savings from free software installations, potentially to the tune of billions in just Canada alone
  • Revenue generating opportunities for innovative mobile app developers
  • Value-add for the general public that would make their lives more efficient as they try to find out quick answers to simple questions

Over the coming weeks, I’ll do my best to explore what various communities are doing to encourage open but I’ll also look at the various platforms and software packages that fit the definition of ‘open’ and how people and small businesses can leverage them for their own marketing and networking activities.

In the interim, in the spirit of being open, I welcome your unedited, non-spam comments :)

3 comments for this entry:
  1. Brian Frank SAYS:

    Don’t forget open standards :-)

  2. Collaborating Openly to Make a 21st Century Government | Brian Frank SAYS:

    […] it) about how open standards are built, a recent post by fellow Londoner Bill Wittur on some open government basics, the latest post on the Google blog defining their notion of openness, and a book I perused […]

  3. admin SAYS:

    Thanks Brian (and thanks for quoting the blog – it’s always an honour :)).

    HOW could I have forgotten about open standards? Thanks again for the reminder.

    For the audience: I would personally describe open standards as referring to the use of content on a royalty-free basis. I’ve been involved directly or indirectly with the music industry over the last 10 years and something like “creative commons” (http://www.creativecommons.ca/) is an ideal state for anyone that produces content (and music). However, the description with Wikipedia focuses a little more on technology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_standard.