… As we move from the realm of “pure” software – that is, programs running on generalised computers producing essentially digital output (even if that is converted into analogue formats like sounds, images or printouts) – to that of “applied” software, there is a new element: the device itself.

For example, in the case of the pacemakers, having the software that drives the computational side of things is only part of the story: just as important is knowing what the software does in the real world, and that depends critically on the design of the hardware. Knowing that a particular sub-routine controls a particular aspect of the pacemaker tells us little unless we also know how the sub-routine’s output is implemented in the device.

What that means is that not only do we need the source code for the programs that run the devices, we also need details about the hardware – its design, its mechanical properties etc. That takes us into the area of open hardware, and here things start to get tricky …

The problem with hardware specifications is that they are only really useful to those with the facilities to implement them – that is, hardware manufacturers. In fact, those best placed to explore the hardware are the original designers and engineers with their prototyping machines. So what is needed is some way for others to get involved in that design process right at the start, not after everything has been decided. Of course, there are technical areas that few have the competence to comment upon – but some do: there are bound to be designers and engineers outside the company who are able to make useful comments. And even non-technical people can comment on other aspects – for example the appearance of devices, or assumptions about how they will be used.

Companies already gather that kind of information through market research, but there’s a key difference here. Instead of the company paying a specialist market research organisation to go out and ask people what they think about a possible new product, this would entail opening up the entire design process to let anyone comment. Where the former depends on finding enough people who may or may not have interesting things to say, the latter is self-selecting: those who have opinions are given a way of expressing them.

This is not a new idea. It was formally dubbed “open innovation” by Henry Chesbrough a decade ago, notably in his book of the same name. It’s based on the simple but powerful idea that there are always more people outside a company than inside it who know about any given subject – it’s never possible to hire all of the world’s experts. And so it makes sense to open up the development process to tap into that pool of expertise that would otherwise be missed …

Abstract: What are the contours of such “knowledge” that does double duty both as a public good or commons and as a source of individual empowerment and liberty? This article offers an analysis of the epistemological organisation of the “knowledge economy” by shooting ethnographic work on Free Software through a playful trompe l‘oeil of Roy Wagner‘s classic piece on Daribi kinship. It offers a preliminary template for thinking of Euro- American knowledge as itself a trompe l’oeil device.

Synopsis: What do Wikipedia, Zip Car’s business model, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and a small group of lobster fishermen have in common? They all show the power and promise of human cooperation in transforming our businesses, our government, and our society at large. Because today, when the costs of collaborating are lower than ever before, there are no limits to what we can achieve by working together.

For centuries, we as a society have operated according to a very unflattering view of human nature:  that, humans are universally and inherently selfish creatures. As a result, our most deeply entrenched social structures – our top-down business models, our punitive legal systems, our market-based approaches to everything from education reform to environmental regulation - have been built on the premise that humans are driven only by self interest, programmed to respond only to the invisible hand of the free markets or the iron fist of a controlling government.
In the last decade, however, this fallacy has finally begun to unravel, as hundreds of studies conducted across dozens of cultures have found that most people will act far more cooperatively than previously believed.  Here, Harvard University Professor Yochai Benkler draws on cutting-edge findings from neuroscience, economics, sociology, evolutionary biology, political science, and a wealth of real world examples to debunk this long-held myth and reveal how we can harness the power of human cooperation to improve business processes, design smarter technology, reform our economic systems, maximize volunteer contributions to science, reduce crime, improve the efficacy of civic movements, and more. 
For example, he describes how:

  • By building on countless voluntary contributions, open-source software communities have developed some of the most important infrastructure on which the World Wide Web runs
  • Experiments with pay-as-you-wish pricing in the music industry reveal that fans will voluntarily pay far more for their favorite music than economic models would ever predict
  • Many self-regulating communities, from the lobster fishermen of Maine to farmers in Spain, live within self-regulating system for sharing and allocating communal resources
  • Despite recent setbacks, Toyota’s collaborative shop-floor, supply chain, and management structure contributed to its meteoric rise above its American counterparts for over a quarter century. 
  • Police precincts across the nation have managed to reduce crime in tough neighborhoods through collaborative, trust-based, community partnerships.

A taxonomy for measuring the success of open source software projects. by Amir Hossein Ghapanchi, Aybuke Aurum, and Graham Low. First Monday, Volume 16, Number 8 - 1 August 2011


Open source software (OSS) has been widely adopted by organizations as well as individual users and has changed the way software is developed, deployed and perceived. Research into OSS success is critical since it provides project leaders with insights into how to manage an OSS project in order to succeed. However, there is no universally agreed definition of “success” and researchers employ different dimensions (e.g., project activity and project performance) to refer to OSS success. By conducting a rigorous literature survey, this paper seeks to take a holistic view to explore various areas of OSS success that have been studied in prior research. Finally it provides a measurement taxonomy including six success areas for OSS projects. Implications for theory and practice are presented.

Antonio Lafuente (coord.), Luis Casas Luengo, Javier de la Cueva, Jesús González-Barahona y Pablo Manchón, “La oportunidad del Software Libre: capacidades, derechos e innovación”, Informe resalizado por encargo de la Escuela de Organización Industrial (Ministerio de Industria) para hacer un estudio sobre La viabilidad de una política de implantación del SL en las administraciones públicas, Madrid, 2009

Resumen: Los tres pilares sobre los que se asienta nuestro informe se resumen con los términos oportunidad, necesidad y liderazgo. En efecto, actualmente se dan las las circunstancias para que España pueda situarse al frente de las muchas iniciativas que aspiran a recuperar el terreno perdido en las tecnologías de la información y a desarrollar un novedoso tejido productivo solidario con las políticas de innovación industrial y de independencia tecnológica. Este documento no pretende ser exhaustivo, sino más bien motivador, diseñando un itinerario tecnológico, económico, administrativo, jurídico y político capaz de inducir el escenario más conveniente para la liberación de todas las capacidades que nuestro país ha acumulado en los últimos años en materia de software libre.El itinerario se basa en una batería de argumentos que se podrían resumir en cinco principios fácilmente documentables: 1) El software libre representa una opción tecnológica de calidad que impulsa la innovación. 2) El software libre crea tejido industrial y asegura la libre competencia. 3) El software libre fomenta el escrutinio público y optimiza el gasto informático. 4) El software libre garantiza la igualdad de oportunidades de los proveedores y la seguridad de la información. 5) El software libre ensancha las libertades en la sociedad de la información y favorece la cultura abierta. Obviamente, los principios conducen a las propuestas. Por ello hemos incluido varias docenas de recomendaciones que faciliten el tránsito desde una sociedad con gran dependencia del software privativo a otra que se apoyaría en las soluciones libres. Dicha transición es posible, pues contamos con la experiencia y los profesionales necesarios. No son pocos los que dudan de estas convicciones, pero lo hacen sin un conocimiento verdadero de la excepcional situación de nuestro país. Nada se logrará, sin embargo, si el liderazgo no es firme y la voluntad política no es rotunda. El mundo del software y de las TIC es muy dinámico y sólo cabe esperar una verdadera incidencia nacional e internacional de nuestras recomendaciones si el gobierno no duda en ponerse al frente de una iniciativa tan necesaria como oportuna.

Cuihua Shen and Peter Monge (2011). Who connects with whom? A social network analysis of an online open source software community. First Monday, Volume 16, Number 6

ABSTRACT: By examining “who connects with whom” in an online community using social network analysis, this study tests the social drivers that shape the collaboration dynamics among a group of participants from SourceForge, the largest open source community on the Web. The formation of the online social network was explored by testing two distinct network attachment logics: strategic selection and homophily. Both logics received some support. Taken together, the results are suggestive of a “performance–based clustering” phenomenon within the OSS online community in which most collaborations involve accomplished developers, and novice developers tend to partner with less accomplished and less experienced peers.

Protovis composes custom views of data with simple marks such as bars and dots. Unlike low-level graphics libraries that quickly become tedious for visualization, Protovis defines marks through dynamic properties that encode data, allowing inheritancescales and layouts to simplify construction.

Protovis is free and open-source, provided under the BSD License. It uses JavaScript and SVGfor web-native visualizations; no plugin required (though you will need a modern web browser)! Although programming experience is helpful, Protovis is mostly declarative and designed to be learned by example.

Mark Gorton (founder of LimeWire) started TOPP in 1999. His goal was to promote alternatives to automobile dependency. While maintaining this focus, TOPP has become a kind of incubator for projects that support open participation in urban development. Their approach is rooted in the idea of open source, most commonly associated with free computer programs that can be shared, adapted, and further developed by anyone with the ability to contribute. While TOPP has much expertise in programming, they’ve also applied the open source model to urban planning and governance. With projects ranging from Portland’s TriMet transit system map to the closing of Times Square to traffic, TOPP has been using technology for public work in many creative ways…

P2P Foundation » Free Software and Free Culture in Brazil

The 20 minute video bellow is a passionate speech given by Brazilian President Lula da Silva about the importance of Free Software and the Internet at the 10th Free Softaware Internacional Forum, in Porto Alegre, Brazil - June 26th, 2009.

“The free software somehow is this, I say, it is giving people the opportunity to do new things, create new things, as there is no thing that guarantees freedom most than to ensure individual expression, allowing people to enhance their creativity, their intelligence, especially in a new country like Brazil”