Archive for March, 2007

Second Law: Software is for all

Ranganathan expressed his second law as ‘every person his or her book’. As with the first law, he came up with this law in response to his observation that books were restricted to a small number of privileged people. Interpreting this law in the context of open source software is easy: conditions 4 and 5 of the Open Source Definition say that software must not be restricted from individuals or groups or from specific fields of endeavour. It is tempting to suggest that Ranganathan saw the second law of library science as the most important, since he spent three chapters (of 9 total), comprising 178 pages (roughly 1/3 of the book) to discussing its struggle, global uptake, and implications.

March 23rd, 2007

Life trumps blogging …

… which is why I’ve been quiet this month. Nonetheless I reached a milestone with my research today. I received the final response to the email interviews! Thank you to everyone who has participated.

Now I can get out my coloured pens and start the analysis. This should be fun.

March 14th, 2007

A bad day

You know that your tech support person is having a bad day when he says “I’ll email you the configuration details just to be sure you’re using the correct settings” when you phone him to say that your Internet connection has stopped working for no obvious reason. Your day becomes worse when the first two pens you pick up to write them down have run out of ink.

March 7th, 2007

Freedom from, or Freedom to?

Today I started reading Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice. On page 3 of the prologue, he talks about the difference between ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’. Schwartz came up with these phrases based on Isaiah Berlin’s essay “Two Concepts of Liberty”, published in 1969.

I immediately wondered how this applies to open source projects, and what I’ve been hearing in the various interviews I’ve been doing over the last few months. I’ve thought for a while that ‘freedom’ is an undervalued concept in the open source movement. It’s unfortunate that many people first think of cost when they hear term ‘free software’, hence the widely used advice to ‘think free kitten, not free beer’

The FSF’s four software freedoms are all ‘freedoms to’, and they definitely represent the developer perspective. Some of the people at the ‘user’ end of the spectrum have focused more on ‘freedoms from’. Three of them are:

  • freedom from license fees;
  • freedom from compulsory upgrades; and
  • freedom from vendor lock-in.

Since I finished the last face-to-face interview transcript yesterday, and am just waiting for two of the email interviews to be completed (I’ll send out follow up messages again tomorrow), I’m finally ready to start analysing the data. I’m looking forward to seeing what additional ‘freedoms from’ and ‘freedoms to’ I find, if any.

I’m still mulling over how Ranganathan’s second law, ‘Every person his or her book’ can be applied in the context of open source software. Watch this space for my conclusion. I also have a movie/DVD catch up post to write. We’ve recently seen Borat, Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 movie), A Prairie Home Companion, and The Corpse Bride. Eclectic is probably the only word to describe the list.

March 1st, 2007


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