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POSSE, Humanitarian Open Source, Open Source, IP (intellectual property)

POSSE RIT 2011, Monday

It’s fascinating being on the teaching end of a POSSE experience. I was on the itinerary to open with a presentation on IP, copyright, and Open Source history this morning. Originally geared towards undergraduates, I tweaked my presentation towards an audience of educators, but since my own background in OS is still somewhat limited I included a few questions in my powerpoint that I thought were important but to which I did not have answers. I thought that at the very least they would make good starting points for discussion with a room full of CS and related academics. One of the questions was “How do commercial software companies make money in Open Source?” Dorin Patru, an RIT faculty picked up on the question and brought it up again later, which brought out a detailed and fascinating response from Chris. Chris started by saying that Open Source software projects generated a billion dollars in revenue last year. Then answering the question directly Chris laid out five models of Open Source. I have included a copy of Chris’s whiteboard notes that I cribbed from class. I hope to have time to go in to a detailed explanation of the various revenue models after POSSE. If you read this and the details are not here–ping me and I’ll get on it.

What followed was fascinating, not the least of which because Chris seemed to be answering all questions that I have been wondering about since I became involved in Open Source. He discussed the range and distinctions between OS licences (of which there are over a hundred approved by the Open Source Initiative)by marking out the ends and the middle of the spectrum.

Chris then went on to lay out the time line of events that led up to and included Open Source in far greater detail than I had previously ever seen it done. When he was finished, he brought up the issue of CS academic programs recently having problems recruiting and retaining new students and that one explanation for this seemed to be because the current crop of new undergraduates are the first to have no experience with programmable devices, computers with command lines having disappeared nearly 20 years ago. He then went on to talk about raspberrypi, an effort from the UK to develop an inexpensive ($25) programmable device that would bring back that ability to tinker in a computing device that inspired the current CS establishment some two and three and four decades ago.

All in all, a fascinating day.



4 thoughts on “POSSE RIT 2011, Monday

  1. ESR wrote ‘the cathedral and the bazaar’ which discussed FLOSS business models

    Posted by kevix | August 9, 2011, 1:54 am
  2. Richard Stallman has an interesting background as one of the hackers at the AI Lab at MIT. He was there when they first got their own timesharing system up and running call ITS. (The acronym has sometimes been referred to as the Incompatible Timesharing System). I’ve also read a little bit about the evolution of the MIT AI Lab under Marvin Minsky and there’s interesting links I’ve followed through Wikipedia regarding the Lisp Machines and a company that spun out of the AI Lab called Symbolics. I speculate the anger and resentment over the source code running on the Lisp Machines and the legal battles over that is probably the straw that broke the back of Richard Stallman convincing him that closed source was a terrible in practice.

    Posted by carpetbomberz | August 9, 2011, 4:05 am
  3. Thanks for the detail on those events. Always, looking for more grist for the story-mill.

    Posted by afreshvegetable | August 9, 2011, 6:52 pm

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