Tag Archives: open source

IBM Lotus Symphony

How cool is this:

“Lotus Symphony is based on the Open Document Format (ODF) standard-which means you’re not locked into proprietary file formats, software licensing agreements and upgrades. Finally, free tools and freedom of choice!”

And this:

Besides committing 35 China developers to OpenOffice.org, IBM plans to make its voice heard — immediately and loudly. IBM will “work within the leadership structure that exists,” said Sean Poulley, vice president of business and strategy in IBM’s Lotus Software division. “But we will take our rightful leadership position in the community along with Sun and others.”

A boost for open source software (OpenOffice.org), a boost for open standards (OpenDocument), free trade in services, and retro (I was confused how the new Lotus Symphony would relate to Lotus SmartSuite, until learning that there had not been a new SmartSuite since 1999!

Elsewhere online: CNET has a factually incorrect hit-piece (among other errors, Google Docs supports OpenDocument just fine). And Dana Blankehorn examines IBM’s wider open source strategy.

Christian Love, Public Goods, and Open Source

“Public goods” is the economics idea of something that benefits everyone and can’t be denied to anyone. The schoolbook example of a public good is a lighthouse, by some scary rocks in the sea. When the lighthouse is working, every captain, and not just those who helped pay for the lighthouse, enjoy the benefits of seeing in the nights. All boats become safe, and not only those ships whose owners have paid.

Another example of a public good is national defense. Everyone, common citizens, soldiers, and criminals, enjoy the military’s protection from foreign armies. Sure, the government can come after you in other ways if you don’t pay your taxes, but there is no way for the government to allow the barbarian horde to enter your home without allowing it to enter our national borders, as well.

Interesting, the Bible describes hatred as destroying public goods. In Malachi when God famously loves Jacob but hates Esau, hatred is operationalized by destroying things that all of Esau’s people would have enjoyed…

And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.

Whereas Edom saith, “We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places”; thus saith the LORD of hosts, “They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever. “

Pretty heavy stuff.

Esau’s people lose the public good of collective security — they experience hate.

And so you don’t think this is just part of the Old Testament forgotten by the kinder, gentler Christians, Paul repeats the story in his Letter to the Romans. Yes, the same Paul who emphasized Love as the core of Christianity.

God’s providing us with a clue on the meaning of love and hate. Hatred means, among ohter things, destroying public goods. Love means, in part, building public goods. A loving, Christian government would thus build infrastructure, such as lighthouses. A loving, Christian government would thus bring security to the people with an army. But both lighthouses and armies fall short of a true love, because both involve taking things away from others in order to provide it to the public. Thus, true love by the community would involve generating public goods without the use of taxes — without police powers. “Forced love” is called rape.

A more loving public good are the open-source word processes and document formats. These are free, universally available, tools that allow professional word processing, spreadsheet calculation, and presentations. They have no marginal cost and no fixed cost. They are available to all people in all places, weather students or lawyers, Rwandans or Americans. OpenDocument is a public good. OpenSource OpenDocument is a public good. Encouragint the widespread adoption of the open source OpenDocument technology is as simple as using OpenDocument-compatible tools, such as free-as-in-speech OpenOffice and free-for-use Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Quiet evangelism, such as making your originals in ODT and sending those alongside Microsoft Word DOC files, helps.

But the government can help the people — all people — too. Recently, California became the fourth state to consider requiring that “all documents, including, but not limited to, text, spreadsheets, and presentations, produced by any state agency shall be created, exchanged, and preserved in an open extensible markup language-based, XML-based file format.” For little or no extra cost, California may liberate millions of Californians from the rentiers (ron-tyays) at Microsoft. Even better, the spread of this technology in California would have viral effects, ultimately making everyone’s information easier to make, easier to store, and easier to read.

Jonathan Schwartz Actually Sane, Nuanced

I’m John Kerry,” by Rx, Dick is a Killer, track 9, http://www.thepartyparty.com/.

Scare Tactics in the World of Open Source,” by Jonathan Schwartz, Jonathan’s Weblog, 4 April 2005, http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/jonathan/20050315#disinformation_about_open_source.

The Participation Age,” by Jonath Schwartz, Jonathan’s Weblog, 4 April 2005, http://blogs.sun.com/roller/page/jonathan/20050404#inevitability.

Now I know that there are those who criticize me
for seeing complexities
And I do
Because some issues just aren’t all that simple

I’m John Kerry may be the acceptence speech that the Senator should have given, but the above lines also work for Sun’s Schwartz. Earlier I criticized him for managed economy neomercantilism. In response a kind commenter asked me to read his blog. I did, and my verdict is Jonathan Schwartz is a smart and mostly wrong.

He is wrong on software patents. He is wrong on Java. And he is right on the economics of free software.

First, software patents

Over the course of our conversation, [another executive]e started telling me about his efforts to encourage his portfolio companies to lobby governments to bring software patents to an end. What? Until then, my view on the elimination of software patents was that the vanguard of that position were those without the ability or wherewithal to fight against established patent aggressors. Those who could honestly look at the confusion the US has created around the proliferation of spurious patents, who sought to help others defend against potential inequity – while they built their own value.

But I’m confident an accomplished Silicon Valley VC wasn’t the sympathetic constituency the European Union had in mind when it recently considered the reformation – and elimination – of software patents. Asking fledgling nations without software patent portfolios to forego the creation of defensible IP – while the wealthiest nation on earth keeps its powder dry – doesn’t seem equitable or desirable. At best, the view that patents should be eliminated for everyone but the US is misguided – at worst, it’s a truly cynical attempt to magnify inequities rather than destroy them.

Schwartz misses the point. First, he is talking about software patents specifically, not patents generally. Second, the EU’s attempt to restore pre-1990s rules on patents is an attempt to get the US to go back as well. It is an attempt to get them abolished worldwide. Jonathan misrepresents the movement.

And having said it before, let me say it again. I believe in IP. I believe in its value, both economic and social. I believe it should be protected, as any other property, as a means of fostering independence, investment and autonomy. And not just in wealthy nations – but in those struggling to build wealth or pay down debt. I believe the creation, protection and evolution of intellectual property can accelerate everyone’s ability to participate in an open network.

Intellecual property is not just another kind of property. It is artificial. The Constitution proclaims

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Unlike property, which is protected from seizure by the Constitution, the founding document of the United States shows that “intellectual property” is a fiction to improve the general welfare.

But occasionally he’s right

That same day, Dan [Rosensweig, President of Yahoo!] had posted absolutely incredible performance at Yahoo!, delivering their first billion dollar year (in earnings, not revenue, earnings). Which gave me the perfect backdrop for my answer.

“Last I checked, Yahoo! was free.. But with a billion in earnings, Dan, has anyone ever accused you of being a communist?” Dan said “Nope.”

In my view, the economics of free and open source software are identical to the economics of free search, TV, radio, checking accounts or mobile phones – the money’s not in the access to the product, it’s in the services and value delivered around the product. he vendors of those products have a huge interest in eliminating the divide between them and their customers, one typically based on price – as a means of enabling higher value opportunities. It’s a basic concept, and if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know my views on how networks and subscriptions (whether to handsets, software updates, roadside emergency services or sell-side analyst reports), over the longer term, can change price and value equations for businesses that know how to exploit them.

Right on. Microsoft and others often occuse open source proponents of being closet Communists. His willingness to honestly debate the measure is refreshing.

So he’s not actually insane. But he’s still wrong. Mostly.