[Humanist] 24.539 terminological confusion: open-source vs social software

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Dec 3 10:52:34 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 539.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 02 Dec 2010 11:10:09 +0000
        From: Richard Lewis <richard.lewis at gold.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.535 call for chapters: social software
        In-Reply-To: <20101202085239.88FFCB6365 at woodward.joyent.us>

At Thu,  2 Dec 2010 08:52:39 +0000 (GMT),
Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
> Proposal Submission Deadline December 31, 2010
> The term Web 2.0 technologies, also known as `social software' or
> `open source software'

No it's not. The term "Open source software" originates from around
1998, proposed by Christine Peterson and popularised by Eric
S. Raymond. It was used by Raymond to attempt to break away from the
stuffy elitism of the Free Software Foundation and their (arguably
ambiguous) "free software" label.  http://www.opensource.org/history 

There's no necessary relation between social software and open source
software. It's perfectly possible to implement a blogging system, for
example, using closed source software. I often hear a similar
confusion of the terms "open source" and "open access".

The main reason why I try to avoid this confusion is because of an
important difference between open source software development and
other open practices: open source software development is a
collaborative activity in which a code-base is developed and changed
by a group of programmers, often working over the internet, in a
continuous and potentially indefinite process.

Open access publishing, on the other hand, is more about making
available, at no charge, the results of work done effectively in
private; the content published is not open for further development and
alteration by the online community.

Social software seems to fall somewhere between the two, but I think
is closer to open access than it is to open source. Users may
contribute comments, but they are not expected (often not permitted)
to contribute to the development of the work itself.

Richard Lewis
ISMS, Computing
Goldsmiths, University of London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7078 5134
Skype: richardjlewis
JID: ironchicken at jabber.earth.li

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