Archive for July, 2008

Problem Solving as a Mashup

An article titled If You Have a Problem, Ask Everyone in yesterday’s NY Times describes a new business model for what might best be called “open source problem solving”. Example: John Davis, a chemist from Bloomington, Ill., knows that you can keep concrete from hardening by keeping it jiggling (vibrating). He proposed using devices that keep concrete vibrating as a way to stop oil from freezing and the Oil Spill Recovery Institute of Cordova, AK paid him $20,000 for his idea. The problem and its solution were mediated by InnoCentive, a company that

links organizations (seekers) with problems (challenges) to people all over the world (solvers) who win cash prizes for resolving them. The company gets a posting fee and, if the problem is solved, a “finders fee” equal to about 40 percent of the prize.

To use a hip-hop (and increasingly web-centric) metaphor, we might say that the solution in this case was a mashup.

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FOSS as an ACM “Hot Topic”

The latest issue of ACM’s Computing Reviews contains a “hot topic” essay on open source software: Open Source: The Dark Horse of Software? Written by Phillip A. Laplante of Penn State, the essay provides a brief overview of the open source movement, mostly from a business perspective, and provides a very brief summaries of seven current research areas, including:

  • Open-Source Adoption Decision-Making and Business Value Proposition
  • Legal Issues (Licensing and Intellectual Property)
  • Qualities of Open-Source Software
  • Open-Source Community Characteristics
  • Source Code Structure and Evolution
  • Tools for Enabling OSS and Applications
  • Philosophical and Ethical Issue

The article provides some useful links to papers, books, and other resources on FOSS. About the closest it comes to “humanitarian” applications is this:

Clones of many well-known desktop and enterprise applications are available in open source, and these have become important to small businesses, nonprofit entities, and even governments of small and poor nations.

I doubt Richard Stallman will be happy with the following characterization of the relationship between GNU and Linux:

In 1983, Richard Stallman created a Unix-like operating system called GNU (a recursive acronym for “GNU is Not Unix”) and released it under a license that provided certain rights for use and redistribution—an open-source license. Eight years later, a graduate student at the University of Helsinki, Linus Torvalds, created another Unix-like operating system, Linux, which he also made available for free. Both Linux and GNU are still widely available, and their evolution spurred the creation of many other open-source software (OSS) programs.

Shouldn’t that be FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) or better yet F/LOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software?

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