Open Source is a term originally applied to software programming where the source code, that strange and hidden programming logic behind the scenes that makes the software run, is open to all programmers. Any and all programmers who know the programming language used for developing a specific software can access the programming code and change the software to do what he or she wants it to. Plus, the software is free for public use. There is no better example than OpenOffice.org that is available from Sun MicroSystems. It is a complete Office Suite that directly competes with Microsoft's Office, and it is free . I'm using it to write this blog post. Thousands of programmers who know Java and C++ , from all over the world and who probably don't know each other, have agreed to come together for one purpose to contribute their programming skills to build OpenOffice.org.
What makes OpenOffice better than Microsoft Office? Because the best of the best programmers in the world wrote the code. These programmers joined an honor system to participate in writing the code. They signed an honor agreement with Sun MicroSystem to do their best, to do no harm and to submit their work to a system of tests and quality controls in a specific process. In the process, all of the participating programmers improved their own skills tremendously. Everyone wins. The programmers became better programmers and perhaps got better jobs and the public who may not have had a chance or money to use an A-One Office Suite improved their own productivity by using OpenOffice; from writing documents or books or blog entries, working with spreadsheets, developing presentations or working with databases.
I know the first thing you're thinking is that “it's a scam.” I'm sure that there were a few programmers who joined to “get something” out of the program, such as the user's personal information or have the application keep track of the user. I doubt that their code made it through all of the checks and balances. For one thing, Sun MicroSystem will not want its name associated with an illicit endeavor. The threat of a law suit will keep the process honest. For another thing, the threat of having its name publicly smeared by some association with a scam is just not good business. In fact, Microsoft Office probably does more tracking while OpenOffice does none of that. So, OpenOffice is the real thing... it's open, it's good and it's free.
But, what's the big deal? The big deal is that it's a philosophy that will improve this world. It's an honor system and it's open and transparent; all who participated and all who use it are winners . I'm elated to see that Open Source is being applied to other areas of industry. Today's article, Everybody in the Pool of Green Innovation, in the New York times shows the way. Instead of competing for the top dollar and fame and greed, some of the best technology companies are coming together to collaborate. COLLABORATE, damn it! That's a Studs Terkel idea. Why don't you take an hour or so to listen to him? You might learn something!
These companies are making their patents open to the common ; the most skilled and the best engineers, technicians, physicist, scientist and mathematicians in the world, wherever they're at. And, from that source of the best knowledge, they will get the very best ideas and designs for improving the world. Everyone wins. We, the consumer, will get the best products. The engineers who participate will, at a minimum, gain world recognition with their peers and, perhaps, better jobs. Factories will be built to make the products. People will get jobs. Everyone wins.
I guess the last questions is: What will those free market, competition, cut-throat capitalist do with their time? Complain, I guess. That's mostly Republican Libertarians, anyway, and we can really do it without them. When I see articles like the New York Times articles, I get excited about the future.