OpenSource development

Open Source software is computer software which is open and freely available to anyone else to use and modify as they see fit. Traditionally, computer software code is “closed” so you have to pay or get specific permission to use it, and have to buy a licence for the code to even look at how it was written and how it works let alone be able to modify or add to it (and you’d still have to pay the original creators to use any such modifications). Typically, Open Source software is written by a community of people around the world doing it for satisfaction rather than monetary gain.

Attempts are being made to use this Open Source philosophy to create other things, like cars and encyclopedias.

In terms of philosophy, there are obvious similarities between Open Source development and Community Development. But as models and methodologies, I wonder how close they are? Open Source development doesn’t prevent a single company (or individual) doing all the work, excluding others from their decision making, and tailoring the product and process to meet only their needs. Once they had what they wanted, other people could potentially adapt the product and invent a new process to take it forward but they would have been excluded from the development of the product with which the company was involved. Indeed, if you think of a smaller chunk of the product development, Open Source software often succeeds precisely because the “founder” has done the initial work and set things in motion without reference to anyone else. It’s clear then what everyone is working to, and what everyone can do to take it further.

Maybe it’s the sitting-in-front-of-a-blank-sheet-of-paper scenario: there has to be something done to prime the project and get everyone else to be inspired and to get working together at the later stages.

So as Community Development strives to involve everyone from the first stage, what is it that starts things off? Is there a limit to the ideal of including everyone from the get-go, and do we need someone to write a brief and make a few decisions about the nature of the project before the Community gets fully involved? Is Community Development the same as Open Source development, or does it really go, ideally, further?


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