FLOSS Foundations

September 01, 2015

Louis Suárez-Pots


via Celebrate! How Everfest Plans To Become The Place To Go For Festival Lovers – Forbes.

I confess I know Paul, but that only raises my esteem of what Paul and his colleagues are doing at Everfest. The journalist captures the point. It’s not simply about escaping the drone of work and the isolation of the Web. It’s about connecting, sharing, and then keeping community. Festivals counter destructive alienation. And Everfest’s unobtrusive use of technology makes it easier, not harder, to connect and stay connected.

Filed under: critique

by oulipax at September 01, 2015 12:49 AM

August 31, 2015

Dries Buytaert

Giving back and making money

It's not easy to build an Open Source software company.

Canonical recently has made a change to its intellectual property policy. The new policy prevents developers from distributing altered binary versions of Ubuntu. Users are still allowed to distribute unaltered Ubuntu freely, but if they make changes to Ubuntu, Canonical wants developers to either go through a review process or remove all references to Canonical trademarks, Canonical logos, and proprietary software and recompile the Ubuntu archive without any of those.

This change has caused friction with the Open Source community; many are not happy with these restrictions as it goes against the culture of Open Source sharing and collaboration. After all, Ubuntu itself is built on top of the work of hundreds of thousands of Open Source developers, and now Ubuntu is making it difficult for others to do the same.

Canonical's stated intention is to protect its trademarks and reputation; they don't want anyone to call something "Ubuntu" when it's not actually "Ubuntu". I understand that. That aside, many understand that the unstated goal is to make money from licensing deals. The changes affect organizations that base their custom distributions on Ubuntu; it's easier to buy a license from Canonical than to figure how to remove all the trademarks, proprietary software, logos, etc.

Jono Bacon, Canonical's former community manager, wrote a great, balanced post about the situation.

My thoughts? I understand Canonical has to find ways to make money. Most companies are downright greedy, but not Canonical or Mark Shuttleworth. I find the Open Source community "penny wise and pound foolish" about the situation.

I can relate because Canonical, like Acquia, is among a small group of Open Source companies that try to do good, and do well at scale. We invest millions of dollars each year contributing to Open Source: from engineering, to marketing, to sponsoring community events and initiatives. It is not easy to build a software company on Open Source, and we all struggle to find the right balance between giving back and making money. This is further complicated when competitors choose to give back less or don't give back at all. Companies like Canonical and Acquia are good for Open Source, and helping them find that balance is key. Don't forget to support those that give back.

by Dries at August 31, 2015 04:29 PM

August 28, 2015

Louis Suárez-Pots


I find Moocs at best problematical, not for the idea but for what I have learned is its sad implementation, seemingly rushed in most instance for reasons that have more to do with money (to get or its lack) than the desire to expand learning to actual communities. Moocs seem to me to exemplify a notion of the user as individual consumer. And unfortunately, that’s probably not incorrect for the majority of community college and college students, for whom the campus is probably less a community than the place one goes to for this or that class or text. Of course there are exceptions. And even places like York University, here in Canada, or Berkeley, where I went both as an undergraduate and graduate, are infamously anonymising and bereft of the sort of community smaller and more focused universities boast. (In my last years at Berkeley, I ran the SLED program that sought to provide discussion session community for students enrolled in huge lecture classes. That worked, but it was too early, 1997-1998.) But I found the below article interesting, if only for how the student consumer of the Mooc is characterised:

“Despite the fact that college students presumably would be greatly affected by widespread adoption of MOOCs in higher education, very little attention is paid to current college students’ perceptions and attitudes toward MOOCs,” write the authors. “It is heretofore unclear how familiar college students are with the MOOC concept and how they view MOOCs as a source of learning.”

Source: 6 concerns students have about MOOCs – eCampus News | eCampus News

Filed under: critique

by oulipax at August 28, 2015 03:18 AM

August 26, 2015

Louis Suárez-Pots


Motherboard: How First Nations Kids Built Their Own Internet Infrastructure | OpenMedia.ca.


Community broadband is one of the most neglected topics. One doesn’t have to wonder why. Its continuing success, even in the fact of laws against it (as there are, and used to be even more, against very local radio stations), is, well, great. To put it into perspective: It’s as if local groups were getting together to build and then provision libraries, all on their own, using their own funds, and sometimes despite official hostility—and not for providing subversive material or violating copyright.

Filed under: critique

by oulipax at August 26, 2015 02:20 AM

August 25, 2015

Dries Buytaert

Digital Distributors vs Open Web: who will win?

I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to win back the Open Web, but in the case of digital distributors (e.g. closed aggregators like Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Flipboard) superior, push-based user experiences have won the hearts and minds of end users, and enabled them to attract and retain audience in ways that individual publishers on the Open Web currently can't.

In today's world, there is a clear role for both digital distributors and Open Web publishers. Each needs the other to thrive. The Open Web provides distributors content to aggregate, curate and deliver to its users, and distributors provide the Open Web reach in return. The user benefits from this symbiosis, because it's easier to discover relevant content.

As I see it, there are two important observations. First, digital distributors have out-innovated the Open Web in terms of conveniently delivering relevant content; the usability gap between these closed distributors and the Open Web is wide, and won't be overcome without a new disruptive technology. Second, the digital distributors haven't provided the pure profit motives for individual publishers to divest their websites and fully embrace distributors.

However, it begs some interesting questions for the future of the web. What does the rise of digital distributors mean for the Open Web? If distributors become successful in enabling publishers to monetize their content, is there a point at which distributors create enough value for publishers to stop having their own websites? If distributors are capturing market share because of a superior user experience, is there a future technology that could disrupt them? And the ultimate question: who will win, digital distributors or the Open Web?

I see three distinct scenarios that could play out over the next few years, which I'll explore in this post.

Digital Distributors vs Open Web: who will win?

This image summarizes different scenarios for the future of the web. Each scenario has a label in the top-left corner which I'll refer to in this blog post. A larger version of this image can be found at http://buytaert.net/sites/buytaert.net/files/images/blog/digital-distrib....

Scenario 1: Digital distributors provide commercial value to publishers (A1 → A3/B3)

Digital distributors provide publishers reach, but without tangible commercial benefits, they risk being perceived as diluting or even destroying value for publishers rather than adding it. Right now, digital distributors are in early, experimental phases of enabling publishers to monetize their content. Facebook's Instant Articles currently lets publishers retain 100 percent of revenue from the ad inventory they sell. Flipboard, in efforts to stave off rivals like Apple News, has experimented with everything from publisher paywalls to native advertising as revenue models. Expect much more experimentation with different monetization models and dealmaking between the publishers and digital distributors.

If digital distributors like Facebook succeed in delivering substantial commercial value to the publisher they may fully embrace the distributor model and even divest their own websites' front-end, especially if the publishers could make the vast majority of their revenue from Facebook rather than from their own websites. I'd be interested to see someone model out a business case for that tipping point. I can imagine a future upstart media company either divesting its website completely or starting from scratch to serve content directly to distributors (and being profitable in the process). This would be unfortunate news for the Open Web and would mean that content management systems need to focus primarily on multi-channel publishing, and less on their own presentation layer.

As we have seen from other industries, decoupling production from consumption in the supply-chain can redefine industries. We also know that introduces major risks as it puts a lot of power and control in the hands of a few.

Scenario 2: The Open Web's disruptive innovation happens (A1 → C1/C2)

For the Open Web to win, the next disruptive innovation must focus on narrowing the usability gap with distributors. I've written about a concept called a Personal Information Broker (PIM) in a past post, which could serve as a way to responsibly use customer data to engineer similar personal, contextually relevant experiences on the Open Web. Think of this as unbundling Facebook where you separate the personal information management system from their content aggregation and curation platform, and make that available for everyone on the web to use. First, it would help us to close the user experience gap because you could broker your personal information with every website you visit, and every website could instantly provide you a contextual experience regardless of prior knowledge about you. Second, it would enable the creation of more distributors. I like the idea of a PIM making the era of handful of closed distributors as short as possible. In fact, it's hard to imagine the future of the web without some sort of PIM. In a future post, I'll explore in more detail why the web needs a PIM, and what it may look like.

Scenario 3: Coexistence (A1 → A2/B1/B2)

Finally, in a third combined scenario, neither publishers nor distributors dominate, and both continue to coexist. The Open Web serves as both a content hub for distributors, and successfully uses contextualization to improve the user experience on individual websites.


Right now, since distributors are out-innovating on relevance and discovery, publishers are somewhat at their mercy for traffic. However, a significant enough profit motive to divest websites completely remains to be seen. I can imagine that we'll continue in a coexistence phase for some time, since it's unreasonable to expect either the Open Web or digital distributors to fail. If we work on the next disruptive technology for the Open Web, it's possible that we can shift the pendulum in favor of “open” and narrow the usability gap that exists today. If I were to guess, I'd say that we'll see a move from A1 to B2 in the next 5 years, followed by a move from B2 to C2 over the next 5 to 10 years. Time will tell!

by Dries at August 25, 2015 12:25 PM