Open Movement

Saturday, January 21, 2006 - # posted by Matej Urbančič @ 9:22 am

What fascinates me the most in the enormous open source bubble of knowledge is the unparalleled enthusiasm that people show while bringing a piece of software or an idea to life. When I read Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar I agreed that open software is a good idea that should be debated about, especially in those special moments spent in pubs, but I really never understood it, even thou I am flirting with Linux for almost a decade. Until now!
For almost a year I watched closely the development of a few open source apps mainly because the idea somehow pulls me into it. It’s a whirlpool. The question is why it pulls me in? I still can not fully answer this existential question, but I probably can sense the first milestone, that changed the path. It was an urge to make somebody listen to my babbling, my ideas and problems. I had to join in my own way, since I have no idea how to write a program, do not understand debug information and do not have deeper understanding of machinery. Well, I do have something to share. We all have it. These are the ideas and solutions. Once, I followed the discussions that some users and developers had about particular piece of software and I added my frustrations that to my unimagined surprise got answered. The guru said in his reply, that he never thought about the problem in my way and that this my way was also a great solution. Can you imagine my smile drawn from my left to my right ear?

That’s it. Clear answer to my unbridgeable, but to a guru pointlessly simple, question can also be a solution to guru’s unseen, but to me blindingly bright, problem.

So what are these fascinating points?
First of all I admire the time that these open people take to bring alternatives to the people. They never give up answering and trying to solve some stranger's problems. They provide numerous solutions and literally pour their knowledge and experience on new generations of users. The second one is the will to write endless documentation pages from geeks, through users to the ones in need. None can never really count the pages and all of them are for free waiting on the internet for someone to look at and use them. I must not forget the translations that bring the software to the user's home in his language. To every language and not just to those that are spoken by millions of people. There is always someone who thinks that the time he spends for the others is not lost, but wisely spent for the benefit of all. In some circles this person would be branded as an idiot, doing it for free. Next one I need to mention is the development. No need to repeat the famous "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow". The most prominent idea is that the one who makes the program needs it and so loves making it. There are a lot of open project and all target specific users. Giving everything you can to everyone that wants it. So, why do some people do it?

This can not be answered to those that do not participate in it and those that do participate, do not need to get it answered.

Open source question is not even a question. It's just an idea that more of us can do more. It’s plane and simple. This notion that if something is missing I can add it myself; if something is broken I can glue it with a little help from my friends and if there is too much of everything I can remove what I don't need, is enough for some to join the game, being developers, translators, writers or just users with 20/20 vision. The master sees what students can't. And all real masters are modest, flat broke and happy. This is actually no different than things that we anyways do in our life. We try to do as much as possible on our own to save money and time and ask for help if the task is to demanding and then when someone needs a similar returned favor we do it gladly. The big spectrum of different knowledge gives choices for solutions. Once a solution is created it’s repeatable and can be optimized.

Why is then opensource so many times looking down the barrel?
Well opensource is basically bad for business and politics the way the big guys play it. You can't really sell anything that it is done by many for all of us, especially if one is interested in learning a bit about it and doing it in his spare time. The message this idea spreads is a revolutionary message.

Learn and you will not need to follow in line.

Business can not compete with endless riots in alternatives given by millions of free workers. They need protection from the masses and not vice versa. With a little imagination one can surely foresee that a lot of every day life could be open-sourced. The most important is education. In open internet world no knowledge is hidden and the variety of opinions can bring better perspective than library nesting only the greatest minds written on paper. The ideas and solutions are only a click away. It is profitable to receive and expensive to give. Another aspect of this idea is the belief that everyone can work in cooperation with the whole difference of opinions that people can produce. Collaboration only needs firm, but not also closed leadership and of course transparent work which can be commented by everyone at anytime.
I could say that open source is divine. It brings the best out of people that follow it. This does not end at software development, but is spread through many other areas. Wikipedia, building open encyclopedia and other wiki projects are one of them, open-hardware projects follow, open books like Gutenberg project, and many other.

good post. I touch on some of these issues in 'How the BSA is Inadvertently Pushing Companies to Open Source' at

I'm not alone :)

Quite an interesting read. Perfect motivation to do some post-lunch-open-source-hacking. ;)

Well, Dirk, we sure don't want to stop you, do we. :) But I can sense your thoughts :"What will I be hacking today!"

Nice post. Keep writing, I enjoy it. By the way: what was this ingenious idea you astonished the guru with?

Raphael, I'll try to explain. It was something I now call "Ubar" and it's also the feature I'd like to see in every office suite, but am not that lucky :)
If you imagine a lot of text where every paragraph has a different connotation or maybe even every paragraph was written by different person. The problem is, that if you want to distinguish the paragraphs, then usually you mark them or color them, which makes text unreadable especially printed black and white or fotocopied.
I proposed to label every paragraph with this "Ubar" which you can imagine as a big squared starting bracket, that can hold label text written verticaly on outer side and short few words description on the inner site. This bracket is placed on the left margin of the page and indents whole page text by the same value. If paragraph changes, the bracket adjusts appropriately. Hope these words can replace a picture!

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