Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Open Everything launches today

I don't normally blog upcoming events.  (Instead, I list them in the Open Access Directory and encourage others to do the same). 

But Open Everything is different.  It's a series of at least six events, including a three day retreat in British Columbia and half day events in cities around the world.  It will cover many kindred movements, including OA to research, and put each in a wider context.  

From a blog post by Mark Surman, one of the organizers:

Today, Toronto kicks off Open Everything: a global series of six (or more?) events about the art, science and spirit of open [including a talk by Leslie Chan about open access]....

If you are wondering what we're going to talk about, check out the Open Everything Toronto wiki or the list of speedgeeks. Also, you may be interested in my hastily compiled welcome notes:

...[T]his is the first of six Open Everythings. Similar conversations are already planned for Berlin, Cape Town, London, Singapore and Cortes Island in British Columbia. We are onto something very big and very important....

A few months ago, I looked on Google and Wikipedia domains where people were using the concept of 'open'. In 30 minutes I found about 15 examples. Obviously, some of these examples used 'open' was being well before the idea migrated from software: open systems; open societies; open standards; open space meetings. There are also fields that are taking their inspiration much more directly from things like Linux and Wikipedia: open education; open content; open innovation; open policy making; open design; open media; open philanthropy. And, then, there were a few surprises: open ethics; open religion; open fitness.

Some of this is fluff and fashion, of course. However, there are increasing examples of people very seriously and effectively applying open source thinking – intentionally and unintentionally – beyond software and encyclopedias....

As someone who thinks this is a good thing, I have two big questions: How will we know an Open Everything when we see one? and How can we do this better?

It's easy to pull out things like the Free Software Definition or the Open Source Definition to test if a piece of software is open. However, we can't just apply the same tests to a piece of architecture, or curriculum or public policy. We can't just say am I free to 'run' this law or this building. We need a set of principles broadly define the essence of open, and that we can apply much more broadly to the world. Having thought about it a bit, my guess is that the essence of open probably includes things like transparency, participation and remixability. But there are probably more and better words needed here.

Similarly, the best practices of running an open source community are becoming increasingly clear and well documented. Modular ownership. Good infrastructure for reporting bugs and submitting patches. Open and constant communication. All of these things are essential. And, only some of them work well when you port them over to areas of endeavour like education. From the business process perspective, we need to start asking what are some of the core techniques that work across different domains and what things are specific. We also need to look at ways to cross pollinate. My guess is that people skilled at facilitating open public policy process and open events have just as much to teach to open source communities as the other way around....