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Becoming an “open source citizen”

As we’ve begun introducing Open Source Bridge to the community, we’ve described it as a conference about “open source citizenship.” But what does that mean, exactly?

Audrey Eschright, one of the co-founders of the conference, took some time to delve into the concept of open source citizenship:

We’re planning a conference that will connect developers across projects, across languages, across backgrounds to learn from each other. We want people to experience something beyond “how to use tool X” or “why databases keel over when you do Y” (even though those topics are important, making up our tools and trade, and will be a central part of the conference content). We’d like to share what open source means to us, what it offers, where we struggle, and why we do this day in and day out, even when we’re not paid for it.

In order to do that, it seemed important to bridge the kinds of roles we have in open source, user/contributor/owner/institution, getting down to something more fundamental. What else are people who interact in this multi-directional way? Perhaps we’re citizens. Not residents—we do more than live here. We are, like citizens of a country, engaged in the practice of an interlocking set of rights and responsibilities.

For more of Audrey’s thoughts on open source citizenship and the thinking behind Open Source Bridge, read her post “Open Source Citizenship.”

Now, we’re fairly certain that Audrey’s not the only one with ideas on “what it takes to participate in the open source community.” In fact, it’s highly likely that you’ve got your own ideas on open source citizenship. We’d love to hear you talk about them—and so would the rest of the open source citizens.

6 Comments 1 Tweet

10 Comments

  1. Posted February 26, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    What’s the point? To talk about freedom and user rights? Don’t the FSF and free software supporters already do that? I thought the whole point of the open source movement was to encourage adoption of free software by pointing out how practical it is rather than pointing out how much freedom it gives to users.

    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  2. Posted February 26, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m *never* going to use a product or not use a product based on whether or not it’s open source. I’m going to use it or not based on how good it is at the job I’m trying to get done. I use Firefox because I think it’s a damn good browser. I *don’t* use Open Office because I think it’s a poor office package. Licence doesn’t enter into it.

    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  3. Posted February 26, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Hear hear. I use Opera for the same reason: it’s a damn good browser, and, at least in my experience, seems faster than Firefox (also a damn good browser). I use Linux because it’s a damn good OS (conversely, I don’t use Windows because I don’t think it’s very good). In several years of Linux usage, I can probably count on one hand the number of times the whole system has locked up or crashed on me. Using Windows, I probably experienced a crash on at least a weekly basis. On top of that, even if I cared to, I don’t have the time or expertise to audit the source code of either the Linux kernel or Firefox. The Linux kernel has literally millions of lines of source code, and my guess is that Firefox has at least a few 100k lines (though I’d welcome any correction anyone can offer on that one). On the other hand, I am glad that certain libraries and applications are open source (particularly those written in Python) so I can study or contribute to them. So, sometimes, license does enter into it, but, mostly it doesn’t.

    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  4. Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    This reminds me of my Databases professor. He refuses to use Microsoft because he doesn’t want to "feed the beast" and informs us all that we need to use Open Source for that reason. We’re Juniors in college, for the most part we’ve made our tech choices. Our teacher is a douchebag. Given, a lot of us use open source (whether it be FireFox or Linux). It’s because of the reasons bofh mentioned.

    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  5. Posted February 26, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Having the right to install a specific piece of software wherever I want, whenever I want, without having to ask anyone, definitely goes into the "plus" category. It doesn’t really matter whether the source code is available. However, there doesn’t seem to be lots of closed-source freeware those days. That being said, I don’t use Openoffice either — I use Excel 97 and Wordpad, because they start quickly.

    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  6. Posted February 27, 2009 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    > Having the right to install a specific piece of software wherever I want, whenever I want, without having to ask anyone, definitely goes into the "plus" category. Oh yeah. This isn’t a bad thing of course. What I’m saying is that we’re all trying to solve *our own* problems. Sometimes something that is open source will be part of the solution, sometimes it won’t be. I’m just trying to find the best solution to my problems.

    This comment was originally posted on Reddit

  7. Kenny Akridge
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Excellent thoughts.

  8. Scott David Daniels
    Posted June 2, 2009 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I see the open source ethos as “contribute back if you receive value.” I take this in a global sense, so you needn’t have a balance of zero with everything you use, but rather with the open source world. Before we were calling it “open source,” there was an ethic of sharing knowledge and tools. The idea was to avoid building hundreds of “just good enough” tools yourself. For me a good open source citizen is one who kicks in as well as uses. Personally I prefer the MIT license for my tools, so that I can freely use and offer them wherever I work, but I understand the motivation for the other forms.

  9. Alpheus
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I have rarely had the time to delve into the source code, or write documentation, or even post a comment or question on a message board, yet I have made subtle contributions to Open Source.

    How? I use open source products! I sometimes tell others about what I use and why, as well.

    We need to remember that, although an invisible user doesn’t *seem* like he’s contributing, he is. Every download, every use of an application, is a vote saying “I use this product!”

    This isn’t to say that I don’t want to contribute in the sense that everyone means by contributing. I *do*! And this is another way invisible users contribute: some day I may have the time to fix a bug, or start a project, or do something else that will visibly contribute to the Open Source community. Because I use these products, a desire has been planted in my heart to want to do these things.

    Finally, the more users that an open source project has, the greater the incentive for companies to support open source as well (this is especially so for drivers and Linux).

    Thus, we should stop looking down on people who do nothing but use open source products as “freeloaders”; they have made an alliance to the community, and so long as the community proves itself worthy of that alliance, that alliance will strengthen the community in an invisible sort-of way!

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