Open thread: How do you describe open source to the uninitiated?

It happens all the time. You're at a party, someone asks about your work, and yet again, you have about 45 seconds to describe one of the greatest innovations in human history.

There's the public utility metaphor. The shared infrastructure "like a bridge or a road" idea. Waterworks. Rural electric co-op's.The car with the hood welded shut. The Wikipedia analogy. The scholarly tradition. Libraries. The scientific method. Bucket brigades, quilting bees, and barn raisings. Seed banks and sustainable agriculture.

When we try to explain open source ideas to people » Read more