“Community source” – just like open source?

I’ve just watched a talk about “Community source”, a concept out of Charles Sturt Univeristy and the “open source” Sakai project. They have coined to term Community source to differentiate themselves from FOSS basically because they want “to retain control”.

This is yet another case of an organisation trying to get the benefits and public interest in FOSS to work for them without committing to the freedoms FOSS propogate. I’ve been talking about FOSS in terms of Open Source (an OSI/FSF approved licence), Open Standards (openly published and unencumbered by patents or royalites), Open Knowledge (openly documented, open content) and Open Governance (anyone should be able to participate and if worth according to the project rise through the ranks). I strongly believe that any project that claims to be FOSS, or Open Source should rank well in each of those 4 pillars of FOSS, otherwise they aren’t really FOSS. I outline this briefly in a previous blog post.

Community source is a controlled development environment that is certainly better than proprietary, and puts control back in the hands of those who participate, however it is NOT FOSS, even if they use an OSI licence. I know there are people out there that define FOSS just by the licence chosen, however I believe this is too narrow a view. What if a project is GPL licensed but a completely closed development model, no documentation, no ability for newcomers to participate and rise in the ranks, and based completely on closed proprietary standards? I think we need to as a community broaden our definition of FOSS to look beyond the licence to the other aspects that make it FOSS.

Community source is similar in my opinion to the famous “Shared Source” that Microsoft came out with. “It’s just like Open Source, no really! Just better…”

I get frustrated at the misinformation out there about FOSS. I’ve heard of schools taking FOSS out of working infrastructure because someone up the chain heard “if it is FOSS then the students can tinker with it”, which is complete bollocks! (They are confusing code with a running system)

I would hope that the Sakai project would at the very least remove the reference to it supposedly being “free and open source” on their website. I find it a little misleading, particularly when they so strongly advocate not being FOSS.

Note: Yes, I used the little o and s in the title on purpose as that is exactly what I’m seeing today.