From hypocrite to hero in a couple of steps

bunny by steren.giannini
Learning from RedMonk’s “open source” conundrum:
[Via business|bytes|genes|molecules]

Just chanced upon a wonderful post by Steve O’Grady of Redmonk. The post touches upon a subject near and dear to my heart and to those of many in the online bio community; licensing.

The background: RedMonk bills itself as an open source analyst firm, and has historically licensed content under a CC-NC-SA license. Well someone pointed out that the NC part of the license goes against the open source ethos. Hmmm, we have a problem here.

The solution: Dynamic licensing. The folks at RedMonk are now using a plugin changes the licensing as a function of time. When content is made available, it is available under a CC-NC-SA license, but after 60 days, automatically switches over to a CC-BY-SA license.

Now I am not saying we should specifically be using the licenses described here. The key is the problem, which is much the same that many content producers in the life sciences face today. The second key is the action. RedMonk had a problem and found a solution. A few people have said lately that we should stop talking and take action. We have journals that use CC licensing. We have wikis that do the same and many blogs. Science should be fundamentally open source. We have established that many kinds of raw data belong in the public domain, but there is a lot of generated information that belongs to the content producer. I think we have a blueprint here we should think about.

The original post is well worth reading because it provides a wonderful insight, not only into the working of a company but also how its community helped them solve a tricky problem – How to be a viable commercial entity while remaining true to the openness and transparency that the company espouses. The title explicitly describes a Web 2.0 company – “We’re not perfect, but we try.”

The integrity of O’Grady, as he realizes that his company is not actually doing what they thought they were, that they were, in fact, doing what they had criticized others for, was impressive. I would make sure I dealt with Redmonk if I ever had the need.

The community first identified the problem. Then the organization, realizing that their community, who were also customers, was right, found itself in a corner. But, by being open, the community helped them find a creative solution that not only works but demonstrates real creativity, providing something that will now be useful to many.

And, because everything is open, they were able to work with a developer to create the plug-in they needed. A closed architecture would have made this impossible.

And it is a good business model: Charge for something available RIGHT NOW but make it free after a period of time for others to use. That is actually what copyright was supposed to be before it was corrupted.

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