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Uibk-logo-miniOn February 1st I joined the Department of Organization and Learning at University of Innsbruck as a professor of business administration with a focus on organization. One of the most challenging and, at the same time, tempting tasks as a newly appointed professor is the opportunity to design at least some new courses from scratch. In particular, I was so lucky to being offered to teach the module on “Current Issues in Organization Studies”, which allowed me to design a course I have been wanting to give for a long time: “Open Organizations and Organizing Openness“.

The overall rationale for the structure of the course follows the imperative formulated by Tkacz (2012: 404, PDF) in his “critique of open politics”:

To describe the political organisation of all things open requires leaving the rhetoric of open behind.

As a consequence, the lecture part of the course is organized around different aspects or dimensions of organizational openness such as boundaries, transparency, participation or emergence. The respective readings only peripherally address the issue of openness but rather shall provide the building blocks for arriving at a more precise and theoretically grounded understanding of openness. Read the rest of this entry »

Over at his Open Enterprise Blog, Glyn Moody explains “Why Open Source is Replacing Open Standards” by quoting Linux Foundation’s Executive Director, Jim Zemlin, as follows:

Logo of the Linux Foundation

Logo of the Linux Foundation

The largest form of collaboration in the tech industry for 20 years was at standards development organisations – IEEE, ISO, W3C, these things – where in order for companies to interoperate, which was a requirement in tech, they would create a specification, and everyone would implement that. The tech sector is moving on to a world where, in the Internet of things [for example], do you want to have a 500-page specification that you hand to a light bulb manufacturer, or do you want source code that you can hand to that manufacturer that enables interoperability? I think that’s a permanent fixture. People have figured out for a particular non-differentiating infrastucture they want to work on that through open source, rather than creating a spec.

For Moody, replacing open standards with an open source approach brings two “huge advantages”, namely that (1) “compatibility is baked in” and that it (2) “not only saves money, it speeds up development and the pace of innovation”. Functionally, as Moody emphasizes, open source software still represents a standard, whose source code “both defines that standard, and does 99% of the work of implementing it.”

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In a very recent study on “Paid vs. Volunteer Work in Open Source” (PDF), Dirk Riehle and others found that “about 50% of all open source software development has been paid work for many years now and that many small projects are fully paid for by companies.” However, in openly licensed projects outside of the software realm, the co-existance of paid and volunteer contributors is often considered problematic. For example, while paid coding is uncontested and vital for open source software, paid editing in Wikipedia is often seen as a danger to both the project’s neutral point of view and the motivation of unpaid contributors.

How serious the effects of Wikipedian’s skepticism towards paid editing can be was evidenced last week, when the Wikimedia Foundation dismissed Sarah Stierch, one of its most prominent employees, because of paid editing. The current issue of Wikipedia’s community newspaper Signpost is entirely devoted to

the dismissal of Sarah Stierch, whose paid-for editing activities were first revealed in a blog post. This included a screenshot of Stierch’s profile on oDesk, a global clearinghouse for the hiring and management of remote workers. The profile showed that she had been paid US$300 to author a Wikipedia page for an “individual”, along with two billed hours for a “Wikipedia Writer Editor” job that was “in progress”.

On a more general level, paid editing had already been an issue in the German Wikipedia community. Wikimedia Germany, the local Wikimedia chapter organization, had even funded a project on “Grenzen der Bezahlung” (literally: “Limits of Paying”) to discuss and evaluate issues around paid editing. The project was run by Dirk Franke, a long-standing member of the German editing community, who very recently has taken up a position with Wikimedia Germany (unrelated to paid editing). The following interview was conducted in German and Dirk Franke emphasized that he was speaking only for himself, not his new employer.

Dirk Franke (Foto: Tobias Schumann, CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Dirk Franke (Foto: Tobias Schumann, CC-BY-SA-3.0)

You have been working on the limits of paid editing in Wikipedia in a project funded by the Wikimedia Foundation. What was your main question? 

Dirk Franke: Actually, the project was funded by the German Wikimedia association, which is legally independent from the focal Wikimedia Foundation. In addition, I have not conducted the project for Wikimedia but rather in the course of a grant program, where members of the community could suggest different projects; I always understood it that way that I was conducting the project for the Wikipedia community and not so much for the chapter association.

The question was more a practical one. Paid editing is both a forseeable problem and a forseeable development. Thus, the question was, how can I encourage the community to think about the issue even before the problem is immediately around the corner and it is in fact to late?

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The media hypes Amazon’s new tablet “Kindle Fire” (see the commercial above) as the first credible competitor to Apple’s iPad. And some, such as Forbes’ Timothy B. Lee, celebrate the Kindle Fire as “the Triumph of Open Source“. Comparing the tablet market to the early PC market, where “the 1980s were a period of intense competition and rapid innovation, followed by the 1990s when Windows became utterly dominant and the pace of innovation slowed”, Lee argues that

[t]hings are different now because both the browser and OS markets are becoming dominated by open source software. In the browser market, the two fastest-growing browsers—Safari and Chrome—are both built on top of WebKit, an open source project started by Apple. And now Amazon’s new browser, called Silk, is also built on WebKit. It’s unlikely Amazon would have entered the browser market if they’d had to build a browser from scratch.

This leads him to the conclusion that, even if the market may be dominated by a single platform such as Android or WebKit, there will still be competition between several companies that build products based upon the underlying, shared code. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
March 2017
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