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Living Open Source
My wife wants to spend a weekend camping and thinking about her life. She says she is assimilating all these values and beliefs and wants to spend time contemplating how to make her life be a reflection of her beliefs. She wants to get busy helping people and making a difference. She says “I only have one life and it could end anytime, so I am in a hurry to start living it right.”
There is much to process and do to try to live an open source life, which is where our philosophy lives.
The above is the plain definition of Open Source Software. When talking about Open Source, everyone is talking software. Open Source is a philosophy, however it is very software specific at this time. There are people using open source in ways it was never intended, such as “open cola” that puts its recipe on the packaging and encourages people to make it at home. But, I want to go away from products or things and look at Open Source as a life philosophy. A philosophy that is dynamic rather than static. A philosophy that matures over its life cycle.
Free Distribution – Freedom
Some values seem self-evident. Freedom is one of these. There is much debate in the philosophical world as to what true freedom is, but little debate against freedom as a desirable value. The freedom I am interested in is the kind that is about choice. The ability to choose how to live your life. In this situation, I mean the ability to actively choose the philosophy of your own life. Choose your values and how to integrate those values with your actions. How do you choose that freedom is not a value without the freedom to choose?
Source Code – Truth
Source code rings of Truth. Source code is how a piece of software works. According to opensource.org “deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed.” There is much debate about truth, but I think opensource.orgs statement clears up what we mean in this case. Deliberate obfuscation. The point here for my philosophy is to not muddy my true thoughts, feelings, or desires. To be honest with myself and others so that the root of our choices and actions can be “debugged” if needed. Also, source code is available to anyone willing to endeavor to understand it. Are you?
Derived Works – Seeking Improvement
“The license must allow modifications and derived works.” I am speaking of the freedom to choose to change based on new information, situations or feelings. You need truth (source code) to be able to make modifications. Modifying a lie does nothing to change the true source. Myself, I want to actively seek improvement. Sometimes I have to be disciplined and diligent to change some thoughts or feelings because they are hard, ingrained, and sore. But honesty helps me, clarifies my way and brings inconsistencies to light. Helps debug me. Open source code makes bad programming visible.
Integrity of Authors Source
People need to know things change over time. I seek improvement based on my truth, and over time, as improvements are made, I change. My philosophy may also change over time so this copy may be versioned. The basic understanding here is that, how I act or what I believe may be different than it was yesterday. This is out of a desire to be a better person, and not because I lack conviction. However, I must remember where I started, and how changes have happened in order to keep my Truth intact. Diligence is important.
No Discrimination against persons, groups, or endeavors.
You can just say “No Discrimination.” This is pretty much a live and let live policy. You can do whatever you want until it infringes on the rights of someone else to do what they want. That sounds different from the golden rule, and it is. It is more the “If it harms no one, do as you will.” This makes more sense in context of the rest of the philosophy than it does alone. Alone it seems extreme and begs debate. Let’s hold off for now and discuss it in context later.
Distribution of License
What applies to you, applies to others, from your point of view. I do not mean that everyone should follow your philosophy. This statement is not for others; it is for you. If you believe that you have the right to free speech, you must believe the right applies to others. This is the no hypocrisy clause. If it is ok for you to sleep with people outside of your marriage, then it should be ok for others to do the same. I want to be vigilant against hypocrisy. It is the bane of many an existence.
License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
Rights are universal, not specific to a group. There is a theme going on here. This is the group no hypocrisy clause. Group hypocrisies abound. I was at a concert once and I was smootching the hell out of this girl. This woman walks up and taps me on the shoulder to tell me to stop. Standing next to me are a guy and a girl doing the exact same thing, with even more vigor. I looked at the woman, I looked at them, and she said “what?” See what I mean?
The License Must Not Restrict Other Software
Not everyone must have the same philosophy you do. I think we made this point with other discussions, but I want to be specific. There are many philosophies or religions that hold the belief that theirs is the only “True” belief. Many very ugly things have happened because someone believed that they were right and another person was wrong. Wars have been fought over this belief. People have died. I am all for discussion and peaceful protest. But killing abortion doctors is the type of the thing I am trying to avoid here.
The Hacker Ethics
I want to explore some of the hacker ethics from Steven Levy’s book
. Reading the book, I found that most of the open source philosophy was being practiced by hackers of the old PDP eras at MIT. At the time, the philosophy was still unwritten tribal knowledge, assumed to be self-evident; “The Right Thing” as Levy calls it. The Right Thing is the unique, correct, elegant solution. Most interesting is that The Right Thing “feels” right. I find solace in this idea, seeing as how The Right Thing is what I am striving to accomplish here.
Access to anything that might teach you something about the way the world works should be unlimited and total – always yield to the Hands-On Imperative!
This statement is not only about computers. This is about information and tools. It is about Source. About opening it up and discovering how it works, whatever
is. This is about Truth not being obscured by artificial means. Locks were popular only to figure out how they open. These hackers didn’t want to steal anything. They wanted to know how to get to everything in case they needed something to figure something else out.
All Information Should Be Free
Information is a tool and should be free. To be honest, this statement scares me a bit. Something about the ALL INFORMATION part. Do I want anyone to have access to all the information about me? What about stalkers? Hell, I can handle a stalker, what about the advertisers? Shudder to think of a million marketers knowing everything about me. But I guess if everything were out in the open, if there were no lies or hidden information, maybe there would be nothing to fear and everyone would have to take responsibility for themselves. Maybe.
Mistrust Authority – Promote Decentralization
Bureaucracy hinders progress. If you are always busy having meetings about making things better, you have less time to actually work to make them better. At the very least, bureaucracy slows things down. Bureaucracy gives orders to people that dread them. Hackers pursue their own interests. When someone does something because he wants to and because he likes it, the results are vastly superior to someone who is told to do something. Bureaucracy also often stands in the way. I wonder how many people have gone hungry because they didn’t have the right form filled out?
Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position.
We see some overlap here with the no discrimination discussion. Let everyone stand on his or her own merit. This also works with the Truth and Source edict. I want to eliminate anything that would cloud someone’s true nature. Then we can see what they can do. You are not your degree, your possessions, your age or gender. You are what you do. Give me the tools, the information and stand back. I’ll show you. Then show me what you can do. Hack.
You can create art and beauty on a computer.
You can create art and beauty anywhere, with anything. It’s a Zen thing. The most mundane of daily tasks can be art, if attended to with thought, care, and complete concentration. Have you ever? Done something over and over again to mastery? To the point that it flows through you like water? To the point that you live it, breathe it? And it becomes beautiful; the act. Sometimes that act leaves something behind; I call it art. Personal philosophy can be like that. I am working on mine. Show me yours.
Bureaucrats know their survival depends on keeping people in ignorance, by using artificial means, like locks, to keep people under control.
Locks, laws, enforcement agencies, or armies. They all serve the same purpose. To control people and their access to information and power. These are the kinds of tools people need to get The Right Thing done. When hackers developed a user sharing system for the old PDP systems, there was no security. Some users asked for secure accounts which the hackers then provided and immediately opened those files. Only someone with something interesting to hide would need a lock.
To do “The Right Thing” you need to care. You need to play. You need to be willing to explore.
Playing and exploring lead to caring. Whatever you explore, whatever you play with, you develop a relationship with. Without care, action turns half-hearted, drops at a whim, or worse, becomes hated and feared. If you don’t care about your job, you grow to hate it. Backpackers play in and explore the outdoors and thus have a great care for the outdoors as a result. Examine the places and things that people explore and play with. Caring, passionate action often follows.
Waiting for 5 o’clock can be as much of a prison as any set of bars. Bored, hating the meaningless task of whatever someone else tells you to do. But what about the hours that can slip through your fingers as you engage in an activity you love? Games are a great example. Hours of trying to solve a puzzle or shooting nasties is repetitive, tiring work that is fun! Why? It’s challenging play and exploration that is task-oriented, not time oriented. When you focus on time, it becomes your prison. When you focus on action, time disappears.
“No free person should learn anything like a slave” – Plato
An idea from “The Hacker Ethic.” People should learn open source. The instructor gives the students a problem. The students research the problem. The students come to the next class with ideas and research to share. Lively discussion and exchange of information ensues. Collectively, solutions form. Solutions are further researched and refined. Results become research fodder. The exercise repeats with each class, building on previous research. No one is an absolute authority. Everyone contributes. Everyone, including the instructor, learns. Problems are solved, until the next class finds a better solution.
Solution: Y version 1.0
Insert any problem for value X. Insert proposed solution Y. Encourage others to work on Y and come up with Y version 1.1. This is a formula for open source problem solving. Remember to include all research that led you to Y. Also, make sure others include all information you discovered, along with their own when making version 1.1 available to others to work on. And so on, and so forth. As stated in “The Hacker Ethic,” science does this, and has been doing this for many years. Computers came from open idea science.
Organized Skepticism: The idea of approaching the truth through critical dialogue.
Again, from “The Hacker Ethic.” Also known as the Socratic method for you philosophy types. I see it happen repeatedly on the internet. It happens at my work place in amazing moments. A group of people, armed with knowledge, resources, and tools tackle a problem or an idea. The most productive sessions involve heated debate by passionate people with diverse backgrounds. The devils advocate should be invited, along with Mr. Murphey. Ensure open minds and reserve judgment. Follow through. Be willing to research further, and revise proposed solutions later.
The social aspect of open source living drives open source living.
Linus Torvalds, and many other open source enthusiasts, claim the social force of open source to be the driving source. The idea is that being recognized, in a community of people who love something (programming) as much as you do (experts), is a payoff greater than cash. I agree that this is a major component to lubing the open source movement. Anyone told his or her ideas are brilliant, gets a large ego boost. But there is more than just recognition in the social force driving open source living.
Recognition isn’t everything – yesterday continued
Hashing out a problem with others, via newsgroup, online chat, or coffee laden, real life conversation can be as rewarding as recognition. As much as being recognized by a circle of friends is valuable, just being part of the group is valuable. Belonging is a powerful motivator. Just ask any hate group. People are social animals, and not just for recognition. Recognition is just a motivator to further belong. The more you are recognized, the more entrenched you become in the group. The more I contribute, the more I belong. Thus the work gets done.
“Being a Hacker is lots of fun, but it’s the kind of fun that takes a lot of effort” – The Hacker Ethic
Some people find spreadsheets fun. I am not one of these people. However, I am thankful for people that do. I find hacking life fun. I hope other people will too. Even though there is work involved, in the process of the work, joy is to be found. I think that if you don’t enjoy the work to get to the goal, you probably have the wrong goal. Too many people reach a goal, and are not happy.
No one said it would be easy
I want to reiterate that living an open source life is probably not easy. Heck, living an open source life, just on the front of computing is not easy. But like I discussed yesterday, I think it can be enjoyable. I am going to work hard at revising my open source philosophy. I am going to seek the input of others. I am going to diligently work at presenting My Source. I am going to pursue the path that inspires me. And I am going to take my motorcycle on my journey. Ha!
Government and Open Source Living
The link above is to a letter written by a Peruvian Congressman to Microsoft. The government of Peru is currently debating a bill to make all government software open source. Congressman Villanueva captures the idea that the government is responsible to the people, the people should have full access to public information, and the government is responsible for keeping public information secure. He argues that proprietary software does not allow the government or the people to examine the software and ensure that it is secure. What an amazing concept. Congressman Villanueva is my hero.
Yesterday – Continued
Enough of my worship of the congressman lets go on with the ideas he presents. The people should have full access to public information. Public Source. This makes sense. The government is an employee of the people. Your boss wouldn’t knowingly allow you to hide company information from him, why should we allow our government to hide information from us? This is especially true when it comes to the operation of the government. There should be no argument of national security to the governments purchasing practices or pay scales. I want to know my money is spent wisely.
More Government Discussion
If we have access to public information and we are the watchdogs to make sure our government is secure and sane, why shouldn’t we use open source software? I have little faith in Microsoft to make software that is secure and that if security issues were found, that they would fix them in a timely manner. I want my government IT people to be able to fix it themselves, without having to wait on a giant corporation. I want freedom from the whims and policies of a corporation that doesn’t have to answer to We the People.
Privacy vs Freedom of Information
I had a bit of trouble reconciling this obsession with privacy and the idea that information wants to be free. The two ideas seemed to be in opposition, yet were both common tenants of “The Hacker Ethic” and other open source environments. It seems to come down to the ability to remain anonymous, to have control of your personal information. This idea doesn’t change your source, but instead allows you to be truthful, without giving away your identity. Factual information, the information that should be free, is not a person with an identity to hide.
This exercise was supposed to be an exercise in commitment. Could I write 100 words a day for a month? I didn’t exactly write 100 words everyday, but I did come up with 3100 words. In all actuality, the exercise made seedlings of ideas and has inspired me to go further. I am intrigued by the idea of an open source philosophy of life, and plan to use these seedlings to create something larger. As I have said before, this is only a first version, Open Source Life Philosophy Version 0.1. I plan to edit, refine, and expand.
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