Open v. open

From: Matt Shomphe <mshomphe_at_comcast_dot_net>
Date: Sat Aug 16 2003 - 21:51:42 CDT

I believe there has been a lot of cross-talk in terms of what the licensing
scheme should be for the code. I've just gotten off the phone with Alan,
and I think that I may be able to clear some of this up. Please correct me
on any points I make.

I believe there was some concern that Alan D. had a plan in mind where an
Open Source model would be used to rapidly develop a demo voting software
package, at which point the demo would be used to secure funding for a
similar (continuing) project that would be under a non-Open Source
license. This was my fear, at least. We're in a semantic thicket here,
with "Open" and "open" being bandied about willy-nilly. Let's explicate
these terms, shall we? (And please correct me if I'm wrong)

When the source is "open" (note the little "o"), it means that the source
code can be viewed by other interested parties. This means that there
would be accountability for the software itself, since it can be viewed by

When the source is "Open Source" (note the big, important "O" & "S"), it
means that it conforms to some licensing scheme whereby the code is freely
available for others to download, use, and modify. David M. has enumerated
some of the Open Source options ((L)GPL, BSD, &c.).

"Open Source" inherently means "open", whereas vice versa is not implied at

In my discussions with Alan, it seemed that he did not have a problem with
the code being "Open Source" (in big letters). I think we have to discuss
this further, but Alan seems to be okay with the source code being freely
available to the community (for whatever people want to do[1]). The issue
of remuneration raised some hackles, but I believe that the idea is not to
make money off licensing the software, but in offering support for the
software. As in the Linux model, the code is available, but various Linux
companies make money off of packaging & support. This, I believe would be
a similar model.

The scenario I put to Alan was this:
Say Essex County, MA, had its own IT infrastructure available to the point
where all that was needed was the source code[2]. Would they be able to
get the source code for free? Yes.

More needs to be explored: for example, how would Essex Co. certify the
results (which begs the question of certification). I'm sure you all could
come up with other scenarios that better explore the issues here.

So, there are two reasons for posting this:
(1) To clear up the distinctions that have gotten fuzzed over here.
(Code/support & open/Open)
(2) To foment discussion in the group as to these distinctions and if
people want to clarify things, &c....

To sum up: I think the code can & should be Open Source; money can be made
off of supporting it, but not through binding up the code in a license
scheme; we need to talk more about these distinctions.

Hope this was moderately informative ;)


[1] Alan pointed out that it doesn't make sense for anyone to try to
download & run the software, just elections people would want it.
[2] Alan pointed out that this was an unrealistic situation, since all
these registrars want stuff handed to them.
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Received on Sun Aug 31 23:17:10 2003

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