ALA; Open Source is not a distraction

I had a great time at ALA, and obviously, I perked my ears whenever the topic of open source came up (which was a lot). I found it interesting that everyone seemed forced to agree that open source was a good thing, whether it was as infrastructure that even proprietary vendors made use of or as a mechanism or culture for sharing innovations between libraries. But also interesting was the back-handed compliments and spin that would follow those admissions.

PINES was “mostly successful”. Did that mean we only “failed a little bit”?

Open source needs high caliber programmers? How many developers have proprietary companies been laying off lately?

Open source isn’t mature. Could we also claim that the “mature” products out there actually fossilized?

Open source is free as in kitten. Is closed source non-free as in goldfish?

I’m being glib here, but no more so than my counterparts.

Lastly, it was said we should focus on something larger than open source, and that we should be concentrating on open data and standards. And that’s true enough; but what was not said is that open source is your guarantee of having open standards and open data. Source code is the lingua franca of the computer world, and without it your data could not be accessed, and your standards could not be implemented. If you have open source, you have the other two. If you don’t, all you have is promises.

— Jason