Someone has to do it…

Atul writes that “As I said during FOSS.IN/2006 – in the end, it is “Free and Open Source SOFTWARE”, and someone needs to *write* that software. Waxing eloquently about freedom and how to do FOSS is *not* a functional replacement to actually writing and contributing code.” That kind of puts to rest the argument why does India not produce FOSS contributors. However, that sort of limits the context of FOSS. Free and Open Source is linked with the concept of Freedom and Commons which in turn is intertwined with the concept of a public space (which is what commons should be about).

The country has a healthy legacy of using and utilising the commons – for creativity and for protests too. As someone reminded me recently, the concept of ধর্মঘট or dharmo-ghat (strike/protest) originated from the practice of protesting against the unjust laws of the ruler of the land by establishing a ঘট at the place of worship and then organising ovens for cooking simple meals for all. The commons was also the space where the ladies participated in rangoli or আল্পনা and the tradition of কথা or tales ie the oral history of myths and legends was also fostered through a healthy participation in the public commons. So, you may have noticed by now that the idea I am trying to get across is that the commons fostered creation of content through active participation by community members. And naturally what it did was also allowed certain freedoms in extending and/or deriving the works (or content) and thus provide an area to allow creativity and consequently innovation.

So, limiting the idea of Freedom and Communities to Software only would really limit the participation from a large base section of the population. Even now (in the era of falling hardware prices) the access to a computer is somewhat limited. I don’t have the figures for PC penetration handy but I am sure that they are really not there. On the other hand, figuring out a means to digitize the output of the commons and make them available under appropriate licenses would lead to a significantly larger number of contributions. Before you shout “Wh0a !!” I am not for shunning code and making non code stuff. What I am for is extending the reach to non code bits to encourage more inclusion. For example, take a look at this photoblog. Code is an aspect that is must – non code stuff is equally important to ensure that the language evolves and the various nuances of the language can be fully explored. Language or content is not limited to what we write or the way we speak (or even the way we are on our social networking circuit). It is a living thing that finds expression in the widest possible media and the concept of Freedom and Commons should go all out to embrace it.

If “non code FOSS is not FOSS” then let’s figure out a term and a process to make it worthwhile to do non code stuff – that is one of the things which is interesting for me these days.