Communists Among Us?

Those of you who have been following my blog space for the last several weeks have noticed how much I have embraced (and been re-energized by) the open source software space. I have spent countless hours figuring out how to do some basic things in php and how to use myphpadmin to update mySQL databases … all to drive this new blog space, my From the Basement Podcast site, a new Mambo site I am working on for the Solutions Institute, and some Drupal research I have been doing. I have to say, that I am not a techie in the pure sense of the word … you see, I have become nothing more than a higher education administrator in the last several years and have stayed away from the real nuts and bolts of technology because of it. But, with my recent discovery of amazing tools (like this WordPress system) I have reinvented myself as a geek once again. I love it and I am psyched about technology again for the first time in years!

I work in higher education for a big time R1 University and the security of intellectual property is of the utmost of importance. I spent my first years at the U working in distance and web-based education … it was there that I learned just how tightly academics held onto their IP — no matter how valuable it really was to the real World. To them, that IP represented their perceived value — “if I don’t have my IP, then what do I bring to the table” was the underlying theme that none of them would really articulate … even though it was crystal clear to everyone else. In my current role, I have felt the whole IP argument take a little bit of a slide in the last 18-24 months — it just seems as though people are finally lightening up a bit. Faculty still work hard to protect it, but more and more I hear them say things like, “its cool if you want to use that.” That is a new attitude. Maybe its because there never really was a .edu craze like everyone thought there would be around eLearning … at least not yet. Or maybe it’s just that it’s too much work to protect it all.

Whatever, the good news is that everyone seems to be getting it lately. Creative Commons is a brilliant idea and it gives people the ability to create, share, and improve upon ideas that people want to maintain some ownership of, but also want to let the community enjoy. I just read some, IMHO, idiotic comments by Bill Gates related to the open source/creative commons movement in which he compares people who feel copyright and its associated protections should be reevaluated are commies. Unbelievable. Wired.com ran a great article in which author Katie Dean stated, “The comments show just how out-of-touch Gates is with a large and growing community of people who have embraced the ideas of open source and building on one another’s creative works, proponents of copyright reform say.” Again, amen!

I won’t bore you with more of it as you can read the whole interview yourself. But, the idea behind this post is that I am seeing more and more people embrace new methods of sharing content, software, images, thoughts, etc and this is a good thing. People in higher education in particular are moving away from the idea of holding onto their IP so tightly that it is beginning to open up new educational opportunities that can cross campus barriers like never before. Also, without the open source community (who Gates is terrified of) we wouldn’t have found a way to work together to create software that actually meets the needs of users and encourages developers to contribute to a community. I am thankful that in our way we are opening ourselves up to a larger community — that is something I just can’t see someone like Gates, or our government, ever embracing! For now, here’s to openness with regard to software, images, thoughts, and really whatever we feel is important to the community. As Adam Curry would say, here’s to users and developers partying together! Let’s keep the movement rolling!

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