Weblog:   The Growing Politicization of Open Source
Subject:   Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn once said, "You can't take the politics out of politics."
Date:   2002-08-16 14:11:57
From:   adamsj
Oddly enough, Tim, I was thinking along somewhat but not entirely different lines than your correspondent mentioned in today's weblog when I posted this last night:

I don't mind politicization per se, but do object to doing it wrong, and I think that's what I saw in yesterday's event. (Speaking of theater, I also saw this in last year's Tiemann-Mundie debate.) I also heard a related misconception in the questions after Lessig's talk at OSCON, when someone advocated marching on Washington to create change.

Marches don't create movements--it's movements which create marches. The three most important such marches on Washington in recent history--the 1963 civil rights march, the 1970 Vietnam moratorium, and the 1987 gay rights march--are examples of how an organized movement can use a high-profile march to advance that movement's cause. Doing it in reverse doesn't work.

What I believe you are objecting to in your weblog isn't the politicization of open source. As Larry Lessig says, you can ignore politics, but politics will not ignore you.

You are, I think, objecting instead to the radicalization of the politics of open source.

That raises interesting questions. For instance, are the politics of open source inherently radical? I wouldn't say so (though I could make a darn good argument for it, and I suspect the view is quite different if one is looking from Peru.) On the other hand, the political _implications_ of open source _in government_ may be very radical. (I may be parsing too finely here.)

There's a big difference between _requiring_ open source and _requiring evaluation_ of open source in government. The second helps level the playing field, making lobbyists less powerful--and that _is_ radical. Just getting that foot in the door is a major step--I really think that's all that's needed, both in government and elsewhere. If it isn't, then we need to rethink whether open source is such a good idea.

I do think there's a strong pedagogical argument for requiring open source in education, one that coexists with the financial argument (though I've been following Jonathan Gennick's struggles in his weblog).

One last thought: I've never been a big fan of Eliot, though I recognize his greatness. Last week, I made a posting relevant, perhaps, to that famous quotation:

All the best,

John (adamsj) A