Several weeks ago I did an entry in which I talked about the difference between “complementary” and “complimentary.” It was a bit of a rant because I was tired of seeing these used incorrectly so often. You can be excused, therefore, in thinking that the title of this entry is in error, that I really meant to say “Open source is adaptable.” It is, but that’s not what I want to talk about here. What I do mean is that the nature of open source is such that you can take it and make it yours, subject to the terms of the open source license, of course.
What got me thinking about this was an ars technica entry from several weeks ago called “Russian legislators say ‘nyet’ to foreign software.” Here’s an excerpt:
A group of parliamentarians in Russia has introduced legislation to wean government installations off of foreign software. Calling the Russian government “addicted” to technology from outside sources, members of the United Russia party have teamed together to ban software produced in other countries from use in certain strategic installations and sectors.
I started wondering what they thought of open source software. It is both used and created in Russia. Linux is quite popular, including in the government. Does Linux count as foreign software? How about Eclipse or Ruby? Linux started in Finland, Eclipse in Canada, and Ruby in Japan. There are many other examples of open source software being created in various countries around the world yet used globally.
Do you think about open source software in nationalistic terms? I don’t mean having nationalistic pride, because it makes sense to celebrate technology that was started locally. Indeed, one of my suggestions when I travel abroad is that countries should do an even better job of publicly applauding the work of their home grown open source heroes.
At this point, though, I don’t think anyone would consider Linux to be Finnish when they think about its complete range of functionality. Open source is adoptable because you can take it and shape it into something that works in your situation. You can make it an integral part of your “IT family” and it can interoperate with software that is already there. The changes you make can then be given back to the community and used, that is, adopted, by other people.
If you have security concerns about open source software, look at the code. (Though see the Gartner quote in this article about the true nature of security issues in open source vs. proprietary software.) Make the code your own. Don’t think of it as coming from somewhere else, think of it as the basis for innovating locally. Get addicted to leveraging the work of the global community to give your national community a running start in building even better technology. Then give it back and repeat the process.
In truth, the adoptability of open source software is because of its fundamental adaptability. I think it’s wrong to think of it as “coming from somewhere else.” Think of it as just being a global resource that we can all tap into and improve.