Wednesday, 7 August 2013

What do you think "openness" is?

I'm just starting an online course called "Why Open?" on P2PU. I've done other courses there over the last few years, such as Open Badges and Curation and like to dip in and out of various courses as the mood and interest takes me.

Image shared by CC Licence thanks to Tom Magiery

Here's the link to the "Why Open?" course -> and this blog has been set up just to hold my thoughts and blogposts on it.

The first thing we've been asked to do is a reflective blogpost on what we think "openness" is. I like this approach as it gets you to think about what the course theme is all about before you get into the meat of the course itself. It's a bit of a brain-storming session where you move from the familiar "what you already know" to new concepts, thoughts and ideas.

To me "openness" has a few different connotations. Being open is an approach to things, an outlook on life. Open can be like a door that you can go through, if you so choose. Open can be a delicious sandwich - no lid on it, so you can see what's involved from the start. Open, as in software, is something that has been made available to all to use/adapt freely - but I know that open isn't always necessarily the same as "free". I'm wondering if open can also be proprietary? You can fork open software without necessarily having to keep your new version of it open to others. In this case is open like a can of worms?

I'm looking forward to the course - you might even say that I'm open to it.


  1. Hi Fred:

    Welcome to the course! I'm glad our idea of asking people to try to clarify their own thoughts on openness first makes sense. It just seems to me that we'll then be in a better position to respond to what others have said about openness, to think about our own views in relation to that.

    I am struck by your comment about forking open software and then closing it off, because this hits at the heart of a dilemma I've seen in discussions of openness. I've read the views of some who think that it's more open to create something and then let people do anything they want with it, including changing it and using the new product for commercial purposes, closing it off to further free reuse and to revision by others.

    Then others have said that allowing this means openness leads to closure, and thus it's less open than requiring that any derivatives of one's work are also made open (e.g., through a "copyleft" license like a GNU license or CC-BY-SA (share-alike)).

    I thought about this issue a fair bit awhile back, and wrote a blog post about it, in case you're interested: I decided not to require others to share any derivatives of my own work openly, but I do see the argument on the other side and I respect that choice as well. I think both positions have merit, and it's hard for me to favour one over the other completely.

    A can of worms, indeed.

  2. Fred: I am intrigued by one of your images: open as in a sandwich, so someone can see what is in it before consuming it. It gets at the question of knowledge and access, which are a couple of the intents of the Open Education movement.

    Christina: I read your blog post and its careful delineation of the debates around some of the licenses. I feel really compelled by “reciprocity in perpetuity” but like you see that other positions should be equally respected.

    Fred & Christina: Forking Open Software and then closing it is very provocative and gets at the heart of the debates around open. This reminds me of our Google chat ( conversation where one of the terms we were discussing is values. What are the values of the open community or are there different values for different open communities? Isn't this what the range of open licenses attempt to capture: the continuum?