The Multiple Meanings of the Term “Open”

Over the last couple of months I’ve found myself involved, both actively and passively, in several conversations that contained terms like “open” or “openness”. The adjective “open” was associated to nouns like “format”, “standard”, “source”, “government”, “data”, and so forth.

Quite often the use and misuse of the term “open” leads to almost hatred discussions, exuding religious fervor on both camps (those who are for “open” and those who are against). In my honest opinion, most of these battles are fought on the basis of a misunderstanding on either or both parties about what “open” actually means. Usually people confuse the end (such as making something more accessible) with the means (adopting one particular approach).

I would argue that many of those who fight the battle for “open” often lose sight of the reason why they do so. Nobody would deny that making something (a specification, a file format, a data set, a process) more open and transparent and accessible to a larger number of people is a good thing. This clearly implies that there should not be any obstacle for people to get that. Continue reading.

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