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Where Open Source fits in New Zealand

Open Source software XfceNZ Open Source Society president Dave Lane is a frequent and articulate promoter of his cause. He can also be a scathing critic of proprietary software.

In keeping with the Open Source philosophy, his presentation from this year’s ITX conference is online.

You can read the slides, or hit the S key to see the slides and his speaker notes.

Lane’s presentation has a Creative Commons licence. You can copy, adapt and share the work to your heart’s content so long as you credit the author.

It’s well worth a read if you need a crash course in Open Source. It also works as a refresher.

Lane starts with a tidy definition of Open Standards (The original version of this post said this was a definition of Open Source, my error):

“Well-defined technical specs available at no cost online, created via a transparent process, by multiple parties, with no royalties, no discrimination, and extensible via a well-defined process.”

Later he says:

We don’t want to mandate open source software. That would be counter productive.

This is a good point. Other countries have mandated open source software in the past. It hasn’t always been successful. Better to create the right climate to let software flourish than to dictate what people use.

Also, once you start dictating software choices, the whole business becomes open to commerical capture from the team with the best lobbying.

When proprietary software is best

Not only that, there are times when proprietary software is the best tool for a specific job. It should be left in place.

More important, mandatory Open Source runs against the whole idea of openness. Instead of making user’s decisions for them, it is better to put rules in place so they can make their own choice, the best choice without being constrained.

All we want is a level playing field for software, based on mandated compliance with open standards, as you would expect in just about every other marketplace.

The commercial world often has a better understanding of this than government.

Open source software will succeed on its own merits, just as it has on the web — which is perhaps the aspect of the digital world most dominated by open standards, but it’s already dominated the mobile world, the cloud, the supercomputer and the emerging Internet of Things.

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