Anti-openness gifts: An open advocate's confessions |

Anti-openness gifts: An open advocate's confessions

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For my birthday several months ago, I got a Kindle. No fewer than three people have since asked me, "What are you doing with a Kindle? It's not very open source-y."

Confession: I love my Kindle. I only have one book to carry when I travel. I can play games. And it let me tweet from Paris over free 3G from Open World Forum, where cell data was expensive and, like many conferences, the wifi was shaky. Surely that counts for something?

But the accusers are right. It's not very "open source-y." The DRM is painful and prevents sharing.

Last week, Amazon announced that they had enabled Kindle lending. I nearly leapt from my seat with joy. As it turns out, you can loan a book only once, for 14 days, and that's it. If your friend gets distracted and doesn't get a chance to read it, that's too bad. She can't renew the loan, and you can't let a different friend read it either. It's also enabled for only a fraction of my library, which seems to be a common experience. That's not really lending, much less sharing.

In another part of my house, there's a five-year-old girl with long, blonde hair and a penchant for her movie twin Rapunzel in Disney's latest animation, Tangled. This follows her nearly equal adoration for Ariel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Sadly for her, she was born to a mother who hates Disney for what the mouse has done to copyright law. Talk about the opposite of open and sharing.

Confession: For Christmas, I bought her a doll. Not a little cuddle-at-naptime doll. A three-foot tall Rapunzel. This is the first Disney product I have purchased for her in her five years on this planet. But if you'd seen her face when she saw those giant (and I do mean giant) painted eyes looking at her on Christmas morning, you'd know why I did it.

And those are my gift confessions to the open source world. I make compromises. And I'm not the only one. I work for an open source company but sit within hearing distance of several iPhones. I have an inherited embroidery machine whose software runs only on Windows--but that's the only Microsoft product in our house. And I know more than a few open source advocates who leave their mailing lists to sit in front of Xboxes.

What do you make compromises for? Or are you solidly open-only? Have you ever returned a gift for not being open enough? The confession booth is open. (Pun intended.)

About the author

Ruth Suehle - Ruth Suehle is the community leadership manager for Red Hat's Open Source and Standards team. She's co-author of Raspberry Pi Hacks (O'Reilly, December 2013) and a senior editor at GeekMom, a site for those who find their joy in both geekery and...