Posts Tagged with “openness”

Heartfelt moment of the week

May 10th, 2010

Discussion of what “open” means to Mozillians in Drumbeat group leads to this (emphasis added):

Open is:

Equal accessibility for all, without barriers, regardless of person’s mental or physical abilities, financial status, education, or native language.

I learned that from Mozilla.

Describing the “Open Web”

September 16th, 2009

Jono recently posed the question “What is ‘The Open Web’ and why should you care“. When I’m talking with people who drive cars regularly, I sometimes describe the Open Web by saying it’s a place where there is a decentralized  “aftermarket.” “Aftermarket” is the term used to describe replacement parts or equipment that a person uses to maintain or enhance a product. It’s a well known term in the auto industry.

For example, imagine if you bought a car and were forbidden from replacing the windshield wipers or the battery or the tires unless and until the car manufacturer allowed you to do so. Imagine if you could only use a battery that the car manufacturer provided, or approved. And imagine that the only place to buy batteries or windshield wipers or new tires was from the car dealership. In this case your ability to keep yourself safe is reduced — if the manufacturer has only poor quality tires, that’s all you can get. If you want tires for snow but the manufacturer doesn’t offer them, you’re out of luck. If the tires are wildly expensive, you’re stuck. In this setting we would also say goodbye to the variety of independent developers, stores and maintenance centers; everything would be controlled by the automobile manufacturers. Innovation would also be channeled through this same small number of manufacturers. Develop an innovative tire or better stereo system and you have to get the manufacturers to adopt it; you can’t go directly to consumers.

This ability to change components, to enhance or maintain a product the way to meet individual needs is at risk in the online world. Similarly, the ability of independent creators to try new things is at risk. Technology manufacturers use both technical and legal means to restrain this freedom. Some make it difficult technically to change a component. Others try to make it illegal. Some do both.

The Open Web embodies the legal and technical flexibility so that I can decide what combination of products best suits my needs. I may be very happy to stick completely with what the manufacturer of a piece of technology gives me, just as I might be happy to have all my automotive maintenance done by the dealer using exclusively “official” products. I may want to make only a few changes and the options the manufacturer has pre-approved are fine for me. But somewhere in my life I am very likely to want something slightly different, something attuned to me and the quirks of my life. I may need to find a technical guru to help me, but fortunately there are lots of technical communities building interesting things. The Open Web makes this possibility real, a vibrant part of online life.

Building the Open Web — Jesse Dylan and Elizabeth Stark today

August 5th, 2009

Jesse and Elizabeth will be at Mozilla today to talk about building the open web. This talk will be streamed over the web at I hope to archive this as well, especially given the short notice.

Jesse and Elizabeth are planning on talking about “the ideas of social movements and engagement as they apply to the Internet . . . draw[ing] upon successful examples to discuss the factors involved in engaging large amounts of people to support an issue. We will discuss what is needed to communicate complex ideas in a more accessible fashion, and examine ways to inspire people to think more about these ideas, and to get them to actually do something about it.”

Jesse Dylan is a filmmaker and idea generator. He has worked with organizations such as RED, Bono’s one campaign, the Clinton Global initiative, and TED. He is the founder of Lybba, a medical non-profit seeking to provide medical information openly and accessibly on the web. Jesse created the “Yes We Can” video in support of the Obama campaign, which garnered over 100 million views.

Elizabeth Stark is a free culture advocate. She teaches at Yale University, founded the Harvard Free Culture group, and most recently produced the inaugural Open Video Conference in NYC. She has worked for years engaging a variety of communities and organizations around the ideas free knowledge and cultural participation.

Principles for an Open Transition

December 2nd, 2008

Openness, transparency and massive participation are extraordinary tools for problem solving. They are also important tools for citizen engagement, providing positive alternatives to alienation and conflict.

Mozilla — like many open source projects — lives or dies by these same traits. Openness, transparency, massive participation — these are the traits that identify Mozilla. And we’ve seen success tackling problems conventional wisdom said couldn’t be solved.

During the US presidential campaign the Obama campaign expressed a clear commitment to using Internet technologies to enable increased openness, transparency and civic engagement into the government process. The Principles of Open Transition identify basic requirements for meeting these goals. We hope the Principles will be the start of a rich discussion about openness and citizen engagement. Many questions will come up over time. The Principles won’t answer them all. We hope they identify a few key, foundational elements that we need to get right for the rest to develop well.

Mozilla is an explicitly non-partisan organization. Mozilla supports citizen participation for people of  different views and policy objectives. Mozilla is also an explicitly international organization. We hope that Mozilla’s experience with openness and participation directed toward effective problem solving can be of benefit to many organizations –  government and otherwise — that seek to bring these approaches to their work.

A Second View of the Open Internet

July 10th, 2008

A while back Dave Eaves suggested that the open web is a social value. This may be true. I’d like to explore a different approach to the Open Web/ Open Internet. Not opposite, because the two approaches might fit together, but distinctly different.

One can think of the Open Internet as something very specific and very concrete, as something that can be built and measured. The Internet itself — open, closed, or otherwise — is a set of technologies that determine what capabilities are available. The Internet is physical; it’s tangible. It’s made up of hardware and software. The Internet may embody values. (And its early designers such as Vint Cerf are extremely articulate about the values they designed into its basic layers.) But the internet is more than an idea or a value. The Internet is a physical reality.

We could approach the Open Internet the same way. We could define the Open Internet as one where key Internet technologies have specified traits such as interoperability through standards, constructed with open source and free software, individual freedom to control and move one’s data, and so on. If we do this we end up with a more practical, more technical and maybe more limited approach to promoting the Open Internet.

There is something gloriously open-ended about the abstract idea of the Open Internet and its potential to address many of the pressing issues of our era. I’ve heard this open-ended approach to possibilities referred to as the “poetry.” This poetry is critical and gives us lift and  drive and excitement. It’s very inclusive, and can expand to fit a broad set of dreams.

Building the tangible, bit-based reality of an Open Internet isn’t quite as deep into poetry. It’s very deep into nuts and bolts, hard work, competitive forces, measurable results and the technologies that need to be built. It’s still got plenty of poetry — just look at the excitement and motivation of the people who make it happen. It’s also got a lot of nitty-gritty, every day, concrete tasks that must be done and must hold up to close inspection and comparison. So it’s not as broad. It’s less appealing to people who share our goals but want to build in areas outside of technology.

Building the “bits” of the tangible Open Internet isn’t for everyone. It’s only a part of creating the online life we’d like to have. But it’s critical. We need the technology.

Thinking of the Open Internet in concrete and specific terms allows us to be focused and effective at specific goals. It’s also more limited, and possibly more limiting. Perhaps we need different perspectives on how to think about the Open Internet?

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