Nonprofit Open Source
by pam ashlund
I didn't know what "Open Source" was until I left the nonprofit world. In the for-profit technology world "open source" is almost a religion. In the nonprofit world it's almost unknown.
If you wanted to understand it at a deep level you could get comprehensive coverage at the Open Source Initiative (OSI) website ... but IF, like me, you just want to cut to the chase... it's been around for almost 25 years, but wasn't known by the name "open source" until 1998. Known as free software before '98 it suffered a public relations problem. The analogy used on the GNU website is: "free” as in “free speech”, not as in “free beer”. You can see where there might have been some misunderstandings. "Open Source" communicates the function without confusing newbies.
Like most ideas, the concept evolved over time. Fueled by a desire to:
- do anything to destroy Bill Gates and/or Microsoft; and
- prove that if you shared your knowledge that it would end up benefiting everyone.
Now, I know #2 might sound like Communism, but the "open source" philosophy didn't propose spreading the wealth, just the knowledge, it doesn't exclude business or capitalistic motives at all...theoretically.
Want to know more? See the OSI site, GNU or Wikipedia.
The idea now has a wide following, one example being that (almost) everybody has heard of Linux now-a-days (even if they don't know what it is), and most people know that the PC took off after the architecture "became" open (albiet not voluntarily). Thus the "PC clone" began to flourish. Maybe IBM isn't the best example of the success of open source, because in the short run it almost destroyed the IBM empire (or was that when the silicon chip replaced the "Selectric"? There would be no Dell or Gateway without IBM's idea. But MUCH more to the point, the open architecture allowed a huge software development industry (and still does).
Most people behind the scenes knew that the Mac was infinitely superior, but it lost the market race because it wasn't open source. OK, that's a biased comment, but...the point stands.
You may wonder where I'm going with all this...so here it is (again my introductory paragraph comes in the middle of the blog darn it!):
What happens when the Nonprofit world meets the Open Source world? Maybe it will be Blackbaud's Infinity project (but probably not); maybe it is eRider's (a group of open source folks helping Non-Profit's with technology); maybe it's just a local non-profit using a Linux Server instead of a Microsoft Server.
It was listening to the pitch for Blackbaud's new Infinity platform that get me thinking about all this, because there was a lot of lip service given to open source (or API or SOAP, but I still have no idea what THOSE are). It was almost as if the idea of open source has become cool and they wanted to jump on the band wagon...OR maybe it was a the voice of the programmers filtered through corporate and marketing that I heard. Maybe it was like Horton hears a who, with us, the Blackbaud Users audience saying "wait, I heard it, I know I heard it!".
WANT TO FOLLOW THE INFINITY SERIES?
Start with From Here to Eternity and then move to the NonProfit TechBlog and read Allan's three excellent posts:
The Open Source Philosophy have the following criteria (cribbed from open source web site):
- Free Redistribution
- Source Code Included or Available
- Derived Works and Modifications Allowed
- Maintains the Integrity of The Author's Source Code
- No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
- No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
- Distribution of License
- License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
- License Must Not Restrict Other Software
- License Must Be Technology-Neutral
Technorati Tags: Blackbaud, GNU, nptech, Infinity, Nonprofit, Open Source