Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Free as in Beer or Speech?

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I’ve been following the “Timmy’s Telethondebate with great interest, as, I’m sure, a lot of people have. I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been more comment from different blogs about it, but there we go.

The whole debate struck a chord with me though, for the simple reason that I am involved in the process of trying to change the mindset of an organisation from a reliance on closed source software to one where open source alternatives are used, where possible and appropriate. The trouble is, some people don’t care about the difference as long as they have the tools to do their job, or they don’t understand the fundamental philosophical difference between free beer and free speech, or both. Furthermore, a number of people have asked me what the business model for open source is and why it matters to us as an organisation whether we embrace an open philosophy or not.

Both Timmy’s original comment, and Paul’s spirited responses are really useful to me as a way of highlighting the contrasting points of view, and articulating the reasons why we (particularly as archaeologists with our remit of preservation by record) should embrace the open source philosophy. However, from my point of view, this article (via my colleague Lucian) shows exactly why we should be avoiding the big guns at all costs. It’s old news now, but I’m going to show it to all my doubting colleagues who are wondering why we make so much of a fuss about it all!

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