Pregnancy, FLOSS and lightbulbs

Following on from what I hoped was a balanced post about the pros and cons of FLOSS software in education, Mark Ballard at the Inquirer writes a one-sided piece. At least I got to air the celebrity's favourite complaint 'I've been quoted out of context'.

It's been a strange process this debate. At the OU I've long been one of the evangelists for open source. I developed SLeD, was the VLE Director who rejected proprietary solutions, part of the team that got the OpenLearn grant, and have blogged often about how the open source method is the best way to produce content. Yet, the outcome of the debate has been to leave me less well disposed towards FLOSS. That can't be right can it, and surely can't be the aim of the OSC? But then I went and re-read the comments from pro-FLOSS people on my original post and they were all very sensible and intelligent, and with lots of suggestions I think the OU could adopt. So, my feeling was probably a personal reaction to the article. Nevertheless, I was left wondering if FLOSS support was an absolutist position, whether it was possible to be a 'bit pro-FLOSS', or was that like being a 'bit pregnant'.

The danger of articles like the Inquirer piece is that it works better if they can set up a pro and anti stance. So none of my pro-FLOSS statements make it into the piece for instance. This may be good for lazy journalism, but it's bad for open source adoption, since it alienates people.

Anyway, I initially wrote a very defensive post responding to the piece. But then I reflected on the above, and felt that was only further entrenching us, and forcing me into a position I was uncomfortable with. I want to resist those who seek to polarise views. So, instead I'll let my original post stand as it's own defence, and instead offer up this pro-FLOSS video (via BlipTV – original is here and on YouTube here):

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2 Comments

  1. I think it comes down to your values and whether you value pedagogy or open source more. Obviously we’d all like both but when you get into grey areas, you are debating your values more than the actual matter in hand much of the time, and changing somebody’s values is difficult if not impossible.
    I’m definitely in the pedagogy camp when push comes to shove, as I suspect are you, whereas the OSC folk value open source more and are willing to make what we consider too large pedagogy sacrifices for that.

  2. I think this is absolutely right Juliette – openness means different things to different people. For the web 2.0/cloud community it is different again – more about open data and APIs.

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