2010-09-18

Open source: a savvy bet, even in tough times • The Register

Matt Asay's take on the insistent logic of Foss is worth reading. It's a nothing new—we in the field, in the industry, have heard this many times before. But it's worth going over, as the accumulation of data, arguments and narrated evidence makes the case for Foss and implicitly for open standards less and less refutable.

Still, those who refute it most effectively do not need arguments for or against to justify their actions. They need only rely on their habits. And Foss is not unique here. It's the same everywhere. When I worked at the library in UC Berkeley, as a researcher for a Mellon grant investigating slide libraries' use of the internet back in the mid-90s, the story was always the same: despite the obvious advantages, despite the absence of real anxiety relating to copyright, image fidelity, whatever, there was still resistance. That resistance took place at the last mile, when the actual implementers refused to comply not because of legal or technological reasons but because they felt it was a) too much work and b) would threaten their own jobs and livelihood, and render them irrelevant. Neo-Luddites? Perhaps: but they also had a point. And in response, we did do those things that ensured their livelihood and relevance.

(The same could be said and was about the editors of the Mark Twain Project, where I also worked. The argument was that with the Internet, you did not need and indeed did not want editors, for Twain's writing was clear and one could append or contextualize any number of ancillary documents to explicate the material.)

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