Tag Archives: open everything

The Evolution of Open – notes from Open Everything

Day 1 of Open Everything at Hollyhock has passed and I’m now up far too late blogging about it.

Numerous insights, but possibly the most interesting occured during the spectrogram exericse where we asked participants to physically locate themselves along an axis (in our case a piece of tape along the floor) in response to questions we asked them.

The most interesting was a two dimensional spectrogram where we first asked people if “The Organization I work for is open.” Then, after participants chose their spot along this first axis we asked them to migrate along a Y axis according to the question “I personally work in an open manner.” Below is a re-creation of how the participants distributed themselves around the room.

Obviously definitions of “open” and “how open” one is was up to each participant – but then this is the point of a spectrogram!

At first blush it simply seemed that many people were personally open (or trying to act in an open manner) in their jobs and that there was pretty equal distribution between who was in an open vs. closed organization.

However, the distribution of people in the quadrants was not random. Those in the bottom right quadrant (quadrant 2) tended to be people who were in more conservative institutions like universities, governments and traditional companies. These people were the IT professionals, consultants, organizers, etc… but more importantly, they were rabble-rousers within their respective organization, trying to initiate change. In short,  you had CHANGE MAKERS trying to shift their org into a more open space.

In the top right-hand quadrant (quadrant 3) were people in emerging open source projects and generally smaller organizations that were striving to be open. This was a group of people who’s organizations were become increasingly open. These ACTIVISTS believed in the open idea and were excited about where they – and their organizations – were.

Finally, in the top left hand quadrant (quadrant 4) were the VETERANS of the open movement. Here were people who worked in well established open source or open projects. Their challenge was they were experiencing the limits and issues of being and acting consistently in an open manner. As they push about against the most extreme limits of open they saw the necessity and value of not always been completely and totally open (for example, there are only so many thinking processes, conversations, and discussion, I can take the time to share).

So the big ah-ha was realizing the growth curve that people and organizations go through as they engage in, and become, more open. First you have change makers who agitate and work to enable organizations to adopt open methodologies. Then as the organization becomes more open people become activists, celebrating the open idea and pushing it into all areas of the organizations. Then those within the organizations begin to run into the operational and practical limits of open and, importantly, recognize the importance and role of “private” or “closed” as essential and so guard it. Critically, I also think that those in quadrant 2 or 3 are often measuring open differently then those in quadrant 4 – who because of their boards and/or stakeholders, hold themselves to a very high bar.

The best part about this is that it means there are individual and organzations lessons to be drawn as one migrates through these stages. It also means thatt those passionate about open, but in radically different quadrants (say 2 vs 4) may have very different priorities and/or concerns. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t both equally committed to a common ideal, just that they are looking at it from very different places.

Open Everything

This first stage of open source (which is drawing to and end) was proofing out the model.

The second stage is about a duopoly…A battle of ideas, so to speak of open versus closed… Where industry is going to be dominated by two platforms that really characterize these two concepts. These two platforms are likely to be Linux and, unfortunately, Microsoft… but I think increasingly the world is entering into this two horse race.

Jim Zemlin, Linux Foundation at Ubuntu Live

September 3-6 I’m co-hosting an event called Open Everything at hollyhock which seeks to explore what this second stage of open will look like and how it can be made more successful, not just in the world of Linux and Microsoft, but across all areas, software, hardware, philanthropy, public policy, business, etc..

In short, what does being “open” mean? What will it mean? And what could it mean?

A bunch of very cool cats are getting together to see if we can begin to answer that question. If you think you might be interested in joining us, click here.

There will obviously be much, much, much more to come on this.

The Open Web is a social movement

Social movements are collective actions in which the populace is alerted, educated, and mobilized, over years and decades, to challenge the powerholders and the whole society to redress social problems or grievances and restore critical social values.
– Bill Moyes in the Movement Action Plan

The mission of the Mozilla Foundation is to create and promote the Internet as an open platform that supports the principles set out in the Mozilla Manifesto.
– Mozilla Foundation’s Statement of Direction

The open web is a social value. It’s not a fact, it’s not necessity, and it’s not a requirement. It’s a value – one that a growing community of people believe in and are willing to fight for. Indeed an emergent community in support of this value, initially composed of coders and technophiles, has steadily grown in size and scope. Today, there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people who believe in the open web. They want the internet to be an open platform, indeed, they know the internet must be an open platform.

This means the message and goals of organizations like the Mozilla foundation and others that promote an open web, have broad appeal and resonate with a increasingly diverse community.

This is exciting.

It will also create new challenges.

Those involved in promoting an open web need to know that they are part of a social movement. Yes, it is language and terminology that make some of us uncomfortable. But it is the reality of our situation.

Embracing the notion that the open web is a social movement does not mean that we must start lobbying politicians or chaining ourselves to Microsoft servers (although some people may already be doing these things). I will be the first to admit that this social movement is very unlike those of the past. We do not need to employ the industrial and hierarchical model of influence and power that underlies the Bill Moyes document that, in part, inspired this post. It is for another era, or at least, for other movements.

This social movement is different in that, so far, it has been able to derive its power from a narrow set of people – mostly coders – who by volunteering their labour, have given the movement neither political power, nor economic power, but hard consumer power. This power has enabled projects like Mozilla to out-create, out-innovate, and out-perform the largest, best financed, and most successful software and IT companies in the world. As such, it does not need to rely on persuading government to create structural changes the way past social movements have. It has simply been able to force change though its market position.

This success however, does not mean it has nothing to learn from the past. Indeed, understanding and embracing the fact that the open web is a social movement would not only give the open web project structure – an organizing principle – upon which further success can be built but it would also allow it to reflect and leverage on the lessons of past movements.

Possibly the most important of these past lessons is that social movements may emerge organically but often do not succeed until at least some primitive form of organization or basic structure takes form around which resources, supporters, and eventually the general public, can coalesce.

This structure does not need to be hierarchical, but it does need to at least anchor or provide a platform around which the movement can build identity and direction. I sense a number of people look to Mozilla to be that rallying point. Indeed, last year when Chris Messina ranted online about Mozilla – which some in the Mozilla Corporation incorrectly felt was an unhelpful critique of the corporation – he was asking this very question. (I know Chris’ comments weren’t very popular with many people and that a major motivating factor for his rant was an effort to bring attention to his new consulting firm, but I’m still going to address his comments at face value) I don’t think Messina was being critical of the corporation per se, a large part of what he was asking was why Mozilla wasn’t serving as a rallying point for people (like him) who cared about the Open Web and Open Source.

The Berkman Center at Harvard, the CIS at Stanford, the Mozilla Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Shuttleworth Foundation, along with a handful of other organizations are already part of the movement’s ecosystem. Perhaps one of them could credibly take on a leadership/organizing/convening role for such a social movement. Perhaps not. At the moment, it seems unclear if anyone is.

Again, this social movement can and probably should be more decentralized than any past movement. But could we push ourselves harder? Are we creating enough hooks for new participants to latch on to? Are we creating an ecosystem where non-coders, but passionate open web believers, can find a niche? What are the big harry audacious goals that a larger community can get behind, and support? Are we willing to talk about ourselves as a social movement? What are the opportunities and dangers in doing that? I’m not sure. But it would be great if someone were thinking about who, or whom, might be asking these questions.

Please know this post is a draft and treat as such. Please tear it to shreds or build on it in the comments or in an email to me.