An open source iPad alternative, Creative Commons turns 12, and more

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In this week's edition of our open source news roundup, we take a look at an open source iPad alternative, Creative Commons turning 12, and more!

Open source news for your reading pleasure.

November 22 - 28, 2014

Jolla’s open source tablet raises more than $1 million on Indiegogo

Fully open source tablets haven't had an easy time. Earlier this year, the KDE team pulled the plug on its ambitious Vivaldi tablet. And other open source tablets barely scratched, let alone put a dent, in the market.

A tablet from Finnish startup Jolla might just succeed where others haven't. According to TechCrunch, Jolla raised over $1.2 million in two days at crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The 7-inch tablet has a higher pixel density and costs $150 less than the iPad Mini 3. And it runs Jolla's open source Sailfish OS to boot.

Jolla expects to ship the tablets sometime in the middle of 2015.

12 years of Creative Commons

Another week, another open source anniversary. This time around, Creative Commons turns 12. According to a report from Creative Commons, there are "nearly 900 million openly licensed works—including 300 million photos on Flickr, 34 million articles on Wikipedia, 10 million videos on YouTube".

In addition to millions of websites licensing their content via Creative Commons, 14 countries have made commitments to open education fueled by Creative Commons. It should be interesting to see how Creative Commons grows in the coming years.

Gates Foundation mandating open access for all research it funds

In related news, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that as of January 1, 2015 the results of all research it funds must conform to the Foundation's Open Access policy. This means that all publications "Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Generic License (CC BY 4.0) or an equivalent license" and that "all publications shall be available immediately upon their publication, without any embargo period."

Writing at Boing-Boing, Cory Doctorow points out that "the next move is up to the publishers, many of whom—even those that are open access in name—have policies that conflict with the Gates policy, meaning that they will not be able to publish Gates-funded research as of 2017, unless they change those policies."

Los Angeles is the latest U.S. city to embrace civic innovation labs

Getting citizens more involved in government, at all levels, is a challenge. In the U.S., several organizations have sprung up to match people with government problems for which they can help find solutions. The latest U.S. city to do that is Los Angeles, with its Civic Innovation Lab.

The Lab "brings together a variety of entrepreneurs and innovators across different industries with ordinary citizens who have the best insight into what the city can do differently." The project is currently collecting submissions based on the design challenges it identified a couple of months ago. The winning submissions will be "based on strength of team, scalability, impact, and city engagement." If you're a civic innovator in the Los Angeles area, this could be your chance to pitch in.

Firefox goes Yahoo!

It's no secret that over the last several years, Mozilla has pulled in much of its revenue from a deal that made Google the default search engine for Firefox. That's set to change, thanks to a five-year partnership that Mozilla inked with Yahoo!

Yahoo! search becomes the default for users of Firefox in the U.S. and, according to blog post by Mozilla's CEO, Yahoo! will support Firefox's Do Not Track feature. The financial terms of this partnership have not been revealed. Whether this is a seismic shift in web search or just a faint rumble remains to be seen.

In other news

A big thanks, as always, to staff member Jen Wike Huger and my fellow moderator Robin Muilwijk for their help this week.

Tags
That idiot Scott Nesbitt ...
I'm a long-time user of free/open source software, and write various things for both fun and profit. I don't take myself all that seriously and I do all of my own stunts.

1 Comment

It's great to see where open source software and the communities that support it are today. Many of those who have worked over the years to develop feature-rich applications and enterprise ready systems, that not only compare to, but exceed proprietary options, must feel like pinching themselves.

Long gone are the arguments around viability (is the open source option “enterprise ready?”) and feasibility (does the community have the expertise and resources to support the software?). Indeed everyday there seems to be another news story (e.g. “open source goes mainstream,” http://tek.io/11q1yI0), blog post (e.g. “open source offers a better way,” http://bit.ly/1HPeloQ) and company (e.g. Microsoft, http://bit.ly/1v3QXjp) or government (e.g. NSA, http://1.usa.gov/1tseO5D) press release about how open source software is enabling innovation (“There are thousands upon thousands of open source projects that bring about innovation,” http://tek.io/RXL9Ws), reducing costs (“reaped 50 per cent in savings for a key website just weeks after embracing open-source,” http://bit.ly/1B2Z6qo) and furthering business (“IT Pros Prefer Open Source for Continuity, Control”, http://bit.ly/1FoaJGl).

Yes, it would appear “open source continues to eat the software world” (http://bit.ly/1z49bPX), perhaps even the whole world (http://bit.ly/1p9tOVP). Unfortunately, as organizations who actively and authentically participate in the development of software distributed with an OSI Approved License reap the business, economic, operational and technical benefits, as well as garner public accolades and increased profile from that success, “open-washing” becomes more prevalent.

IFAIK, Michelle Thorn, Mozilla’s Director of the Webmaker Program, was the first to define “Openwashing” in 2009: “Openwashing: to spin a product or company as open, although it is not. Derived from “greenwashing” (http://michellethorne.cc/2009/03/openwashing/) – which should not be confused with “The Open Source Washing Machine” (http://www.oswash.org/). Also in 2009, Phil Marsosudiro (http://www.realgoodwork.com/about-us/about-phil-short/), coined a similar concept, “Fauxpen,” which is defined as “A description of software that claims to be open source, but lacks the full freedoms required by the Open Source Definition” (http://www.fauxpensource.org/).

Sadly this is the negative impact of open source software's success. I'm seeing more and more companies, undertaking more and more egregious marketing and promotion schemes that exaggerate their participation in / contributions to / licensing of open source software. The goal of these unscrupulous organizations is to capitalize on open source's success and the growing interest (and investment) it is enjoying, by duping a naive audience which is just beginning to engage with open source software and the communities that support it.

Unfortunately growth and interest in open source software has occurred faster than many organizations' knowledge and understanding of the principles and practices that promote development, foster community and ensure collaboration. Many organizations have standard operating procedures dealing with the acquisition of new software—procurement or purchasing departments, requests for proposals, bid processes, contracting, etc.--all of which are designed to ensure due diligence is carried out and that what a company claims can be delivered, is delivered. Also common within many organizations as well, are policies and processes for managing and transferring intellectual property portfolios, again most often tailored for working in a world of proprietary software. Within these practices are terms and concepts most purchasing agents, directors of procurement, contract managers, lawyers, etc. understand, in fact, expect. Open source software often pushes the limits of these folks, their departments and the organization with not only new "best-practices" to incorporate but a new vernacular as well.

What do developers, evangelists, marketing folks and others mean when they use the terms “open,” “open source” or “open source software”? Are these terms' definitions consistent across the sector? Will some—either purposefully to take advantage of, or naively out of ignorance—use these terms to imply something different than what the audience may assume? While the Open Source Initiative maintains the industry recognized “Open Source Definition” (http://opensource.org/osd) and certified licenses as “OSI Approved Open Source Licenses,” many new to the sector may not be familiar with these standards or how they are applicable to community and development practices. Even those who have invested in understanding the open source ecosystem may struggle with applying traditional practices, tuned for proprietary software, to open source models. For example, who do you send your RFP to for Drupal, Android or Hadoop? Yes, there are several companies who offer professional support and services for these projects, but they only become relevant after the decision to use a particular system has been made. If an organization, like many do, is using the RFP process to understand what software can meet their requirements, say reviewing web CMS's, they'll want to include Drupal, Joomla, Typo3, Wordpress, and others before they contract for support for one of those platforms from a professional services provider. Sadly, with more and more organizations interested in open source software come more and more charlatans to take advantage of this new market and the gap in knowledge for those entering that market.

If these issues are tough for large, resourced organizations, imagine how tough things are for small companies, other open source projects, and even individuals who may not have the expertise, time or money to assess the actual status of software touted as open source? Add to this the complexities in software architecture, distribution and integration where, “based on open source,” “built on open source” and “supports open source” are common, and the challenges only grow for the uninitiated. The cruel reality is, the ultimate responsibility is on the end-users to review the software and accompanying license to ensure it meets your expectations: “adopter beware.”

Fortunately there are a few good pieces of advice already out there: How to Spot Openwashing (http://bit.ly/1Ctf4vM), and; Beware of Open Washing – Three Key Questions To Ask Your Software Vendor (http://bit.ly/1uXK0u8). These two articles provide a starting point for organizations looking at open source options to assess, not only the open source software's availability through an open source license, but also the communities that support it.

In addition, there are two projects I am aware of that are trying to help address this issue, i.e. accuracy and authenticity in open source software. Importantly both these efforts are not limited to the software licensing aspects, but also the organizational model (development practices, decision-making, roles, governance, etc.) supporting the open source project. These are The Open Source Score Card (http://opensource.org/node/476) and, The Openness Index (https://wiki.jasig.org/display/2398/Openness+Index).

Until the open source software movement matures even further, becoming sophisticated enough to recognize open from fauxpen, many may fall victim to the openwashing of unscrupulous businesses and organizations. When considering the adoption of, or a contribution to, any organization touting their open source support, please be sure to investigate the community thoroughly. You'll find those organizations that are authentically engaged in the development of open source software are welcoming to you as a “newbie,” and appreciate your diligence and interests because they too want to protect their work, reputation and the open source label.

Best of luck.
Patrick

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