“Oh, please, wise interwebs…”

We go through life often looking at Google to lead us in the way we should go. Which is the best blender on the market? What is it that I can do for this ailment? Which program is the best for me?

Well, there is an issue with this mindset. The internet can give you facts, but cannot give you the answers you are seeking. These answers can only be found in using the information collected with yoru knowledge of your values. 

The article I read this week was "I Won't Let You Pay Me for My Open Source" by David Heinemeier Hansson and it spoke particularly of the viewpoints of RAILS vs.  Microsoft pointed out that thee were similarities in their background, but that they are diametrically opposed on a variety of topics because of their choices and their expectations of others.

The author of this article has put forth software into the world as open-sourced and hopes that people will contribute their work to the public as well. Sharing the work does not mean that they need to be paid. It is seen as a gift that others will hopefully pay forward and be grateful for, even if that gratitude is unexpressed. In terms of software, this also puts forth a different set of obligations. Those who are paying for the software can have specific expectations of the software tha, if not met, can reasonably lead to complaints. It is less reasonable for an open source piece of software to met all the needs of everyone who desires to use it, especially when there is an expectation that it will be customized to teh purpose for which it was found.

In scholarship, that is less the case. Academic knowledge is shared m freely, potentially in the hope that others will lean from this knowledge and, within the frame of their own work, build on the work and contribute to the knowledge that is available to the public.

My largest question remains. And it is one that is addressed for a moment by the author: If open resources do not appear in the same ways as do their closed or paid access counterparts, how are they to be found?  The authors says tat he used to do a lot of advertising with his product, but had a shift in mindset that would help to distinguish his open source material from their aid counterparts (though I do use that word loosely. Making the resources look similar lessens the ability of the public to realize that this is something that is meant for tem to use and build on and with. And my question: how do you find them?  If these are not being advertised, a person looking for materials must be aware of the existence of sch materials and know the correct terms (as usd by the author of those materials) in order to find them.

Google cannot tell us what our best option is. We need to factor in our own abilities, values, and knowledge in order to make the best decisions for our current situaion. (The title si a quote from teh reading.)





Comments

  1. Thanks, Meg, for your insights here. I had not looked at this article in quite this way. It is a given (we don’t always notice that we do this) that we bring our values with us as we search, but we shouldn’t rely on the software algorithms to make our decisions as to our first available options.

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  2. Meg, I didn't see the marketing difficulties with open source material. I did note how the author's quality of life changed significantly by being able to do what he was motivated to do in the Rails project. I think that this challenge of having work that is authentic and intrinsically-motivated is not unique to the open source world. I don't have a comment on how to solve these problems, but I think being grateful for work that jives with our authentic, creative selves is something to be truly grateful for.

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  3. Meg, I love that you said the internet can give you facts, but cannot give you the answers you are seeking. That is profound and I think more people need to hear that!

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