Welcoming Software Heritage

Coade Stone is a fantastic artificial rock whose creation process was lost for more than a century because it was kept secret, although it has recently been reverse engineered.

Comments delivered at the opening of Software Heritage at UNESCO:

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to bring greetings from the Open Source Initiative, the global charity promoting open source and acting as steward of the open source definition and the list of approved licenses.

Open source is 20 years old. By popularising the pre-existing concepts of free software, it has been at the heart of the connected technology revolution. Open source gives developers permission in advance to collaborate and innovate regardless of affiliation. OSI-approved open source licenses are the hidden power behind Linux, Apache, Mozilla, Android and more.

But by granting all the rights necessary to us and our fellow community members to use, study, improve and share the software powering modern systems and networks, allowing us to collaborate with many “known others”, open source also unreservedly grants permission to “unknown others” to repurpose, rehost, reuse and revolutionise.

Availability to the outsider — to society in general — is crucial to our future. When software stays locked up inside the corporation or institution, when code created by the state with public funds remains secret, it does not add to our collective knowledge and is lost when its host moves on and the innovation it embodies is lost to society. This was the original motivation for previous generations to create temporary intellectual monopolies such as copyright, as an incentive to creators to make their creations public.

As time has passed, those intellectual monopolies have themselves been regarded as property and the knowledge and culture they embody is increasingly witheld from society. Open source allows that new-found wealth to be “spent” in a new way to stimulate collaboration. Collaboration in community has gone on to amplify innovation and accelerate adoption.

Software Heritage completes the new social contract enabled by open source. It provides the ultimate historical reference for the code behind our culture and comprehensive library of innovation to provide a “mounting block” to the shoulders of the giants before us. We should strive to get all the software that matters into this new digital Library of Alexandria.

It’s especially important that software funded with public money finds its way into Software Heritage. As Lessig observed, the practical experience of the law and of society is through code and all the software that governs our lives and liberty should be public code in this new library. More than just allowing us now to guard our freedoms, future historians will need source code to fully understand our digital present.

So as President of OSI, I warmly welcome the opening of Software Heritage. Open source delivers software freedom, and the Software Heritage archive takes the result and keeps it free for all time. That’s a great contribution to the modern world – congratulations!

FLOSS Weekly 484: The Lounge

After the Pidgin show a while back, Simon stepped in at 11:59 for Randal again, hosting an interesting show about a pure community project that makes a web-hosted IRC client called The Lounge. If you need a web client where you can maintain ongoing IRC sessions, this open source, self-hosted alternative to IRCCloud and others may be the answer. It’s written in Javascript, runs in Node and there’s a ready-to-use Docker container available.

Going With The Grain

If you’re managing community or developer relationships for your employer, a crucial principle is to “go with the grain” of the community — promote and embrace the freedoms it needs and the expectations it cherishes — rather than take actions that result in easily-anticipated opposition.

More at https://devrel.net/community/going-with-the-grain

FOSDEM: How the humble FAQ got Java Open Source

Rich Sands and I gave a new talk in the Community Devroom at FOSDEM. We explained how important the OpenJDK FAQ had been to Sun’s ability to release the Java platform as Open Source, and explained (using an FAQ of course!) how to use the same approach in other projects.

There’s more to say on the subject (we originally created a 40 minute talk before we found we only had 15 minutes, hence the slight over-run) so hopefully OSCON will accept the proposal we run the whole thing there.

FOSDEM: The Third Decade of Open Source

This weekend I spoke at FOSDEM in Brussels to deliver the opening conference keynote. My subject was “The Third Decade of Open Source” and as OSI President I summed up the main events of the last 20 years, some of the key facts behind them and then offered five trends that will shape the next decade.

 

The Universal Donor

It’s not enough for you to have the rights you need; your community needs the same rights.

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A few people reacted negatively to my article on why Public Domain software is broadly unsuitable for inclusion in a community open source project. Most argued that because public domain gave them the rights they need where they live (mostly the USA), I should not say it was wrong to use it.  Continue reading