Vulgar in the open

Vulgar in the open

Over the last week or so, I have been watching the World Cup with growing pleasure. Seeing such teams as the US, the Ivory Coast and Trinidad and Tobago fighting hard and not giving an inch to supposedly superior teams, pricks at the very essence of committed sportsmanship. This positive energy makes you wonder why in a fair universe that these small town heroes do not win their allotted matches.

The truth is, of course, that a little technique is missing in irregular ways and at irregular times. Italy in my humble opinion deserved to lose their match. However, I am certain that the US trainer considers the result beyond his wildest expectations.

Perhaps, I'm imagining it or just want badly to see it, but I see the same industrious spirit in projects such as Samba. The Samba team has pretty much built from vacuum energy a backwardly engineered and functional version of an SMB/CIFS file server. To achieve this goal required large quantities of sweat and blood. For a while, every time a minor version change occurred in Windows, a new swath of work was required to give the intended quality of experience to the end user. You can almost see the boxer/developer being punched by new work, falling against the rails and then punching back blow for blow. These defensive actions required committed sportsmanship at the binary level.

Year after year many free software projects have evolved or are evolving and fighting the core issues of functionality against quality of code. Pushing forward and making the free software community a conceptual banner that many are proud to wear. Therefore, anything that dilutes this communality of focused purpose is vulgar.

The reason I mentioned this is because I was reading up on the newest version of a certain browser that shall remain nameless. I noticed the overuse of the word “open” especially when it came to a new proprietary protocol. In fact, I read an article in a Dutch magazine which said that the use of the word “open” in the name of a trade marked technology meant that it was considered a standards based technology.

No doubt, the misuse of the word “open” helps the commercial entity gain naive customers. You see the same effect in supermarkets as well: packaging of products from a company brand will often look similar to well known makes. You intuitively know the reason why of course; branded products tend to have excellent reputations and customer bases.

What is the solution to this growing issue? One partial solution is for technology writers to actually double check the next time they read the word open. Is the product truly open? If not, give an honest review pointing out to the reader that a trade marked product with little or no peer review is a vulgar and brash attempt at profit making. Leave it to the readers to laugh at the perpetrators helping to erode their market share and shares.



Ryan Cartwright's picture

Terms like "free" and "open" are so ambiguous that they will always be - er - open to abuse, mis-use and well-intended confusion.

I'd be interested to know what you feel is an appropriate use of the word open in a (software) product name?
* Open standards adherance (or just compliance)
* Open source code
* OSI licence - partially or wholly
* Based on FOSS products - e.g. OpenSuSE
* Customisation at all levels

For example, what do you feel the "open" in refers to*? Its open source code or its compiance to (among others) the OASIS document standards? The truth is that the word "open " can and does mean any number of things and use of it in a product could be done for any number of reasosn as well.

Also I'm not sure your suggestion to reviewers would actually work in the way you ( and I ) hope it would. I've read reviews of products which seem to hinge on the fact that the reviewer doesn't like the company rather than the product. In those cases I tend to dismiss any negative coments about the product as the fruit of a grudge and I think I may not be alone.

If a reviewer were to overplay the fact that said company had mis-used the word 'open' it might be seen by some as petty. "This product name uses the word 'open' in a way that I don't agree with." seems a little picky to me. Thus the perceived objectivity of the review drops a little.

Perhaps a reviewer could be kind enough to mention what the company means when they use the word "open" but of course this is not always possible because the companies are deliberately ambiguous in that information.

* I can't seem to find any definition on their site save one for the term "open source".

Alan Berg's picture
Submitted by Alan Berg on

Yes, your comments make good points. What is open?I am just reacting to seeing the trademark logo after products that have nothing to do with open source starting with the word open. Perhaps there is a need for a trademark such as “open quality� (if it not already trademarked) or INTEL sorry I mean open source inside. Thus allowing anyone to use the logo as long as the product is based on open source license with standards based protocols. But then again that would generate unnecessary inertia and meddling. Therefore, I really have no good idea for a solution other than live, let live, and make better products.

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Alan Berg's picture


Alan Berg Bsc. MSc. PGCE, has been a lead developer at the Central Computer Services at the University of Amsterdam since 1998. In his spare time, he writes articles, book reviews and has authored three books. He has a degree, two masters and a teaching qualification. In previous incarnations, he was a technical writer, an Internet/Linux course writer, and a science teacher. He likes to get his hands dirty with the building and gluing of systems. He remains agile by playing computer games with his sons who (sadly) consistently beat him physically, mentally and morally at least twice in any given day.

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