“Open Source is not just for geeks anymore” – CNN

Just watched a brilliantly assembled special special report on Open Source software. Mozilla, IBM, OSU, Open Source Development Lab, Posse, Wikipedia, Lego and many other organizations were featured in the interviews in this report.

To me this was another real sign of maturity for open source. Not that it validates it, but rather that it pushes it out to audiences that really don’t think about it that much because they see it as being marginal or cliquey.

The first part was set in Oregon, talking about how Portland has repositioned itself as a hub for open source. It was odd to see normally media-shy Linus Torvald have the big news network into his home. I like that he focused on his “team”, talking about how his development team works better together than companies like Microsoft, and that it no longer matters if people are in the same building or even the same company, since we all work over email anyway. He turned around the notion that he was a “rock star” saying he had no interest in normal conferences, or even the commercial implementations of Linux.

Lego, the big toy company, was also a big featured company in this, and they talked about how open source software is driving Mindstorm, where they actively encourage customers to play a role in development. Lego factory also talked about open source design, where the community builds whatever they want, and the designs and packaging are generated based on customer input. This seemed to be a bit of a stretch from true open source but an interesting building block in the overall theme, nonetheless. SInce I have three avid Lego developers at home, I plan to actively encourage them to contribute their designs and work back to Lego Factory and the Lego community. Maybe now we can get two more of those little yellow hands that are lost from the soldier dudes.

This version of open source sounds a lot like plain old customer-centric or community thinking with yet another marketing spin on this apparently novel idea of listening to your customers.

Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia also talked about the social implications, and the goal of Britannica quality, he stressed that it was not about the programs and software, it was about the people. “Information should be non-proprietary” “People should be sharing information” “…the damage that is caused when organizations horde information” “…freeing up the information so people can get things done” “Everything is a work in progress” – I love wikipedia.

Portland’s FreeGeek, a non-profit volunteer driven organization focused on system and hardware waste – “give us your unwanted compudetritis and send us your hordes of geeks who want it” – if you volunteer they train you to build systems – you build 5 for the community and you can keep the sixth. Cool!

Then they took an interesting turn into “open source beer” based on the recipe for FreeBeer from Rasmus Nielsen and Superflex – and now they had my attention! Off to a Danish website to get the world’s first open source beer recipe, a quick shopping trip through London, and we watched a couple more interviews as the reporter’s open source beer fermented. Apparently his batch didn’t turn out as expected, but as he said, “That’s the beauty of open source, if I dont like it, I can just change it.” If you are interested, this is released under a Creative Commons license, which basically means that you can use it free of charge but if you make money selling their unique beer, you have to give them credit and publish any changes you make to the recipe under a similar license. Free like beer.

All in all, the reporters did a good job of posiitoning open source as more of an accessible social phenomenon than an elitist technology revolution. Mostly, it was interesting to see CNN preaching the open source gospel from an end user perspective, skirting the techie talk and ending one section on a nice sunset shot on and the words “open source is no longer just for geeks.”

I couldn’t help but think that open source media would mean open sources. I am sure that this would be good leg up for smaller media entities, who produce news items that aren’t just for geeks either.

I think you can use this information if you want to, but if you make any money from it, I will probably have to take it and then pass it on to someone else. I should probably just get out more.

On that note, do you remember Wonkette’s feature, “The Blog Report Report,” where they describe CNN describing bloggers describing the news.

I’m Ben Watson, it’s May 19th, and that’s the news.


Sources: CNN, Open Source special report, May 19, 2006 :-)