Richard Poynder on Open and Free Developments

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Richard Poynder has conducted many interviews with most of the luminaries of the open and free initiatives.

He is in turn interviewed about his experiences, by Sundar Raman for the Open Views series.


Questions for Richard Poynder

  • What is your background, and what motivated you to start compiling

the Open and Shut interviews?

  • Please give us some background on what you think the open source and

free culture movements are about, and what motivated their creation.

  • FLOSS and free culture are very popular ideas right now. Do you see

them as a fad in response to an overly controlling corporate culture, or do you feel these are ideas that are more fundamental to the human condition - i.e., is open source something that people need to be trained to accept, or is it more natural for people to embrace the idea?

  • You're interviews and background on those at the forefront of the

open source movements around the world are very detailed. Do you see that there's a common personality trait, or common background around these people that pushed them in the direction of open source?

  • The current state of development is largely based on financial

return. There are exceptions, such as the One Laptop Per Child project, and other similar "humanitarian" projects. What motivates a person to go in the direction of open-source. Without a financial return, why would anyone spend the amount of time it requires to build a system or create a work of art just to give it away for free? Is there historical precedent to this, or is this a brave new world that's being forged by a group of "revolutionaries".

  • You come from a journalistic background (as far as I can tell from

Google searches). The publishing world has been at the core of restricting access to information. Do you see the publishing industry becoming more open, especially with the accelerating popularity of blogs, collaborative news outlets and collaborative information repositories such as Wikipedia? How does the publishing industry cope with these massive changes is how individuals acquire information? How do you see things like the open-access movement changing traditionally closed publishing areas (which you'd think would be open due to the nature of scientific peer-review)?

  • There used to be a myth that free and open source products were

primarily the work of hippies with anti-corporate agendas who were against capitalism. This idea has been debunked several times, but I'd like to get your thoughts on the subject. Also, there is a great deal of debate about what "open business" looks like, and what the alternative to the traditional business model is. Do you have any ideas or experience on what constitutes an "open business", or do you have examples of successes and failures?

  • Could you please share some of your thoughts on what the successes

and failures around the open/free movements are - what are the things that have been done right, and what's been done wrong? What would your suggestions be to those who are treading down these paths now?

  • The free/open movements have stretched well beyond the realms of

Richard Stallman's free software. Stallman in the past has voiced concern that copyleft and open source should only be used in software, and possibly software documentation. However, the movement has stretched into biotechnology, music, art, and seems to have no limits. Do you think this is diluting the value of the core philosophy behind open source? Do you think those at the forefront of some of the newer movements (for example BiOS or CC) might be creating compromised versions of "open source"? (In a sense it could be argued that CC is a collection of compromises. And there have been criticisms of the BiOS license from multiple sources in the last year or so, relating to how Cambia retains certain control over derivative works. The latter is perhaps also due to the patent vs. copyright complication).

  • If you had to pick one open-source group or application that you'd

like to promote, what would it be and why (for example, one of my guests said PLoS, and another said that TCP/IP is the most important open source project ever)?