Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Open sourcing

Slashdot pointed to a piece on Open v. Closed-Source Climate Research this a.m., and Dewey sent an e-mail calling it to my attention.

Our brief discussion brought up a cool realization: In journalism the talk is all about "transparency." In software design you talk about "open source" code. But the principles expressed by each concept extend beyond bias and interoperability, and they boil down to this: How Do You Know What You Know?

Everyone doing climate science should be making their algorithms public -- not because I'll be able to understand them, but because doing so takes away the charge "What are they trying to hide?" Democracy demands a similar rigor. No state should be able to run electronic voting machines that don't offer open-source software and detailed inspection.

The trick to making journalism transparent and government open and software better is figuring out a 21st century approach to intellectual capital. There are only two reasons to keep certain things secret: 1. Because you're up to no good; and 2. Because it's the only way you know that you can be paid for your good work.

Which is why the next big breakthrough for our culture might well come from an accountant or a lawyer. Solve the open-source business model problem and change the world.