Santa Claus - the most successful open source project

Santa Claus - the most successful open source project

It dawned on me the other day, as I was shopping for the dozens of gifts it seems I have to buy every December (this year, I bought myself a holiday accommodation in Denmark, WA!), that Santa Claus is the most successful open source project in history. (Bridget @ Illiterarty would agree with that). Santa Claus is essentially a marketing development that is embodied by everyone who stuffs a sock, gives a gift, hosts a dinner or wishes Merry Christmas over the holiday season. After all, we all embody Santa Claus, assume that spirit, especially when we’re writing “from Santa” on the gift tags attached to our children’s gifts. The source code for this program is the Christmas Spirit and it supports a huge volunteer effort to continue the Santa Claus gift giving tradition. How could we not be giving gifts at Christmas? (Homelessness, poverty and other religions notwithstanding.) Probably close to a billion people are involved in the development of the Santa Claus free software project.

The following are my interpretations of the Santa Claus license.

  1. Free Redistribution of the Santa Claus Program.

The license to give Christmas gifts shall not restrict any party (like Walmart, Apple, or Nike) from selling gifts to others to give away the said items as a component of an aggregate distribution containing single gifts (dad’s tie) or many gifts (to the kids) from a single source (me) or several different sources (the cousins).

  1. Christmas Spirit Source Code (SOC)

The program must include source code hereby referred to as SOC (Spirit of Christmas), and must allow distribution of source code as well as its compiled form called Santa Claus. Where some form of a product is not distributed with the source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code, potentially via films such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” with James Stewart, for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost—preferably, downloading via the television in the week before Christmas. The source code must be the preferred form in which any giver would modify the program, by acting as Santa Claus either at the local mall or in stuffing the children’s stockings on Christmas Eve, or handing out hot meals to the homeless on Christmas Eve. Deliberately obfuscated source code through expectations of some return gift, is not allowed.

  1. Derived Works

The license must allow modifications and derived works, such as Charitable Giving, Volunteerism and Kindness; and include using the Santa Claus image in performances, films, advertising and promotion and must allow them to be distributed to merchandisers and all consumers under the same terms as the license of the original Spirit of Christmas source code.

  1. Integrity of The Author’s Source Code

The SOC license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form such as re-gifting and gift stealing only if the license allows the distribution of “patch files” called gift exchange games with the source code. The license must explicitly permit distribution of derived works carrying a different name such as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy, Jolly Old Elf, Santa Klaus, Hagios Nikolaos, or Babbo Natale.

  1. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons, as all persons are capable of running the Santa Claus program in any of its derived forms.

  1. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business like a shopping mall, or orphanage, foster home, family home, homeless shelter, hospital or any place people congregate.

  1. Distribution of License

The rights to give gifts must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of any additional licenses by those parties. Such licenses would be considered Grinch licenses.

  1. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product

The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program’s being part of a particular application ie a gift, like Apple iPods or Nike shoes, Coca-Cola or Walt Disney.

  1. License Must Not Restrict Other Software

The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, reindeer, elves and the Salvation Army are associated supporting technologies that may or may not be proprietary and the SOC license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.

  1. License Must Be Technology-Neutral

No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface. Though the best style is running the program with a smile.

So with that in mind, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. :)



Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

How could we not be giving gifts at Christmas?

Very simple (and it applies, partly of completely, to most or all of the similar events).

Think about where and in what conditions, most of the "gifts" you buy, were built (on this matter, free software, just like any kind of software, is indeed very similar to christmas, if we think about hardware and electronic components in general). Even if you are building something yourself, think about the source of what you are using.

Think about the mount of money, circulating during this period (and all year, for that matter).

Think about the pollution, both to build your "gifts" (and again, even if you build something yourself -and if you went to a beautiful forest, to gather stuffs, think about how many insects and small creatures you killed or heavily injured, and, again, what is the source of what you are taking), and to trash/recycle your "gifts" (and during use, if the material is not very stable, or if you need batteries). Particularly think about oil spill (plastic), and how they are destructing nature, to build dams, for aluminium industries, in one of the most preserved area of Earth, in Iceland.

Think about the number of animals and vegetals (and people), who died and were killed, so you can enjoy a good meal, in a warm house.

Think about how dedicating a day, or a period, to it, generally means that the rest of the year, you can care less, if at all. Just how hypocrite is that.

Think about the current state of today society, and how this kind of things are simply here for temporary "relief", so you will be able to go on the very same path of self-destruction, and of global destruction, the day after, avoiding to "explode", and thinking too much about another way of life (you know, an utopia, "a simplistic view on humanity and life, which do well in fantasy books, but which will never work in the real world, because we all know that humans are frigging evil, and because it would require far too much work" -you know, like there was no reasons for humanity current evilness, and like we were not wasting a hundred times the energy to build an idealistic society, ever year, while still having time for everything else).

Think about how many laws are passed, just before holidays (not just year-end ones), when their is not even 5% of the people who should be there (well, not that them being their, does change much anything to the final result -it's not as if any good and well-thought law was passed, the rest of the year).

Think about how you are force-fed, as a kid, with all these stories, and how, when you grow up, you are told that it does not exist, and you would be stupid to believe in these "fairy tales"... though there is absolutely no certainty in both of these beliefs. This is part of the beginning of a life of mental and physical slavery, in today society. If you cannot say, seriously, that "Santa Claus might exist, just as anything else", then you are just the common slave around here.

Think about the number of suicides, during the year-end period. Think about all these people, who long for a better life, and who can't think about anything else but the stupid and destructive way of life, of "the others". Christmas, school, parents, money, food.

Think about the number of people who have strictly no care, maybe because of one or all of the above reasons, and who have to put up with all this sick masquerade. Who have to put up with the increase of noise from family, neighbours and most other people, be it at home, or in the streets. Who have to put up with people "criticizing" their views, in the most stupid ways, like "you have no heart", "you are boring", "you are sad" (yeah, right :P), without even thinking about what they are saying... you know, this kind of things go as a pack: "how to be stupid, *and* how to reply to people telling you, you are stupid".

Think about the one hour and a half, I have spent to tell you all this, instead of working.

Oh, but that ok, you know. I'm a "moaner", you don't have to care. If you had to care about every people who give a simple, clear and reasoned view on a subject, which strictly contradicts "your" vision of it (I say "your", as a huge simplification, because we all know you never really thought about it: it's just how you were told it should be), what kind of boring reasonable and philosophical man would you be... I mean, you don't want this, right?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I do admit I wasn't as overt in the irony as I could have been and I was attempting to be "light". I don't disagree with you and you make good points. Another point to keep in mind is that the Open source structure is agnostic and is used in any number of ways which was more to my point. After all, Al Queda is structured on an Open Source model and they are fairly successful with their endeavor too. Yes, we all need to wake up and understand the dependent origination of all things, the pressure of the egocentric marketing machine and our responsibilities to each other and the planet.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

No problem. It's just that openess (open source) and freedom (free software) does not have much to do with Christmas... I understand your point, and it's always good to find "traces of similitude" between open source/free software, and matters more common to the general public, but it really should have been more neutral... (by not omitting details about the very nature of Christmas, notably -well, at least of Christmas in the current society, though some points apply to the "original" Christmas just as well, and others could be made).

I think the best subject (if we had to choose between what is available...), to use, when talking to the general public, about open source and free software, is works in the "public domain". It's still very limited, and what most people mean by open source and free software, is not that close to what we mean by "public domain", but the notions are still similar, and the general public knows about the benefits of the public domain (though you might have to make them remember, by talking about well-known books, paintings, musics, plays, games, etc., and how they can be used -somewhat- freely today, because they tend to easily forget what it means, in the current society).

You could also have avoided naming brands...

Well, no big deal, anyway, this is simply common.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I won't write too much...
I really liked your article, it's very interesting and inventive. I must agree, Santa Claus is really the most successful open source project ever. But anyway, we all like him because we all like to be given!

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Chris Holt specializes in consulting for Government and NGO public health and social services organizations about software to assist with case management and patient management systems.
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