Welcome to the twenty-first issue of De Programmatica Ipsum, dedicated to the subject of Open Source. In this edition, Graham explores the implications behind the distinction between "free" and "open source" software; Adrian argues that the common discussions about free and open source software are a distraction at best; and in the Library section, Graham celebrates the unnamed authors of free and open source documentation.
Once The Rockets Go Up, Who Cares Where They Come Down?
Somehow, I have yet to come down with COVID-19 (as an asthmatic I'm not expecting it to end well). One of my last big gatherings before the travel bans and lockdowns were enacted was at FOSDEM in Brussels, a chance for nearly 10,000 people in the supra-European software community to get sick. I'm in my element at FOSDEM, as I'm one of those irritating people who makes a distinction between "Open Source" and "Free Software", and uses the terms in different contexts.
Open Always Wins
Few debates in the computer industry are as passionate as those around Free and Open Source Software (otherwise referred to as "FOSS") and how it "benefits society" or promotes "ethics" or some other optimist outcome for the future of mankind. The problem is that this ongoing debate for the past 20 years has only served the purpose of making people look in the wrong direction.
It would of course be easy to single out authors who have made important contributions to the world of Free, Libre and Open Source Software for this month's Library article. I'm sure we'll address their work in later issues. One of the most important reasons for the success of Free Software is its collaborative nature so this month we'll acknowledge the community effort to document open source software.