Information Technology and Libraries

Open Source, Open Standards
An item by Karen Coyle

Information Technology and Libraries vol.21, no.1

When people speak of open source software they are referring to computer code – programs that run. But code is only the final step in the information technology process. Prior to writing code the information technology professional must do analysis to determine the nature of the problem to be solved and the best way to solve it. When software projects fail, the failure is more often than not attributable to shortcomings in the planning and analysis phase rather than in the coding itself. Open source software provides some particular challenges for planning since the code itself will be worked on by different programmers and will evolve over time. The success of an open source project will clearly depend on the clarity of the shared vision of the goals of the software and some strong definitions of basic functions and how they will work. This all-important work of defining often takes place through standards and the development of standards that everyone can use has become a movement in itself: open standards.

A great overview of the whole business of standards. What a great complex human endeavour this is.

In the blog right now I am entertaining the idea that free software is significant in a political sense; people taking ownership of the product of their labour and making it socially available.

As I read this article the idea of “use value” came to mind. Use value was the term used by Marx for things that we need and are valuable but not commodities. Air, the work we do around the house. It seems that these open free products create huge use value, but to be useful they need to be of little commodity value. The reason is that the products become more useful through use. The reward for creating such value needs to also come from social sources.

I saw an item by Richard Stallman where he compared creating non-free software to polluting the air.

It is shocking that the use of things naturally free can be prevented for profit.