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AbcSxyZ

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History of software and open collaboration

Understanding the history of software is fundamental to understanding what it means to collaborate through digital.

The software world was the first to discover, benefit from and try to understand these singular collaboration phenomena offered by the Internet.

While some people are discovering telework, others have been living it for decades on a completely different scale.

Today, developers (with the help of researchers) are trying to understand how to structure socio-technical environments to co-produce software, but it has been quite a story before getting there.

After open source, the dynamics that occurred in the software world are bound to operate in all the other sectors that will be affected by digital and open models, in science, in education, in industry, in politics...

To simplify, we can see 3 steps in the development of an open model. The sharing of a resource (in this case software), the discovery of open collaboration, then the cultural maturation to become the dominant model.

In the 80s, faced with the closure of source codes by companies such as Microsoft, Apple or Xerox, Stallman initiated the free software movement which formalized the sharing of source code offering 4 freedoms to software: use it, study it, redistribute it, distribute modified versions.

In the 90's, thanks to this proliferation of free software, in parallel with the democratization of computers and the Internet, open collaboration dynamics were structured, notably around Linux. Eric Raymond, in his essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar, theorizes that an open and decentralized development, the Bazaar, allows to have a better quality software. Open collaboration was formalized.

Faced with these movements, ideological wars began in the software world.

"Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches" - Steve Balmer, ex-CEO of Microsoft, 2001.

Today, Microsoft and all its soldiers have lost the war, the cancer that is intellectual property has given way to the effectiveness of these sharing and collaboration dynamics. All the GAFAM and BATX are involved in open source.

The cultural maturation has progressed well, but is far from over!

This story of willingness to share resources, of discovery of open collaboration, of a cultural evolution with conflicts doomed to failure by the dominant actors is reproduced in open science, open education, open hardware, open innovation... We might as well learn from the most mature open model.

Knowledge brick on open models (under construction, in french): https://open-models.org

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Thomas TS

The year: 2002. The place: Porto Alegre, RS, Brasil. The event: 2th Free Software Forum (FISL). The actor: Stallman dressed as "Saint Ignucius". The show: Stallman singing the Free Software anthem => "Join us now and share the software..." I was there in tears.
For 18 years i helped the FISL until the bitter 'mercy shot' :: The Plandemy.