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#upgoerfive   I can't tell if making the permalink automatically shared my explanation of open source, nor where I'm expected to share it if it didn't. So here is my explanation, using only the thousand most common words in English.

Writing the plans that tell computers how to do things is hard work and easy to get wrong. Faults in these plans (which are called 'software') hide in places that make them hard to see.

A good way to find the faults is to have many people with many different ways of thinking looking for them. Each different way of thinking is like a different light put on the problem, and makes it harder for the fault to hide.

So  to have as few faults as possible, we should not hide any part of how we tell computers to do things.  Instead we should be open about the plans, letting as many people as possible see them all and try different ways to fix them.

This way of doing things is called 'open_source'.
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17 comments
 
Now take a swing at explaining 'free_software'. Extra credit: Unbiased. (This is why I'm not even going to try.)
 
...comes close to explaining crowdsourcing too.
 
playing on the ambiguity of "free as freedom" and "free as in beer" is so 1980s.  troll better.
 
No, +Chip Salzenberg .  GPL-style free software is forcing people who want to use the open source software I have chosen to apply the GPL to to play by my rules.  My ball, my rules.  You are always welcome to rewrite from scratch, and maintain it yourself.

I've had to explain this lawyers and marking people from Microsoft.  If they can understand it (they don't like it, they dont understand why I do it, but they understand what it is).  Apparently, like them, you get it, you just don't like it.
 
Didn't you already write a hardcover about this? ;-)
Seriously, how many times a day do you have to point this out?
 
+Drew Northup Hey, the site was asking for people to try to explain a complex idea from their work. It was a writing exercise - and a pretty interesting one.
 
+Mark Atwood I was a founding board member of the OSI; you lecturing me about licensing is an amusing NOP.  You mistake the GPL (one license) with free software, which is a political position that software should all be modifiable.  Just ask RMS.
 
And yet +Chip Salzenberg, you still cannot deny that it exists in many, many forms. Don't blame me for the inability for companies to adapt. It is what it is.
 
+Chip Salzenberg: Indeed. I'm constantly annoyed at the presupposition that if you want to have your software be freely available, forkable, and modifiable, it has to be GPLd.
 
+Chip Salzenberg  I know who you are, and that you were on that board.

I do not make the mistake that "GPL" and "free software" are equivalent.  The people who say "GPL" means "less free", are, at best, misguided.

My day job is convincing people to write open source software and to contribute to a project that has an Apache license.  We are moving into the era that more enlightened companies understand the cost of forking, and so can be trusted with BSD-style licenses for institutional software, and that's awesome.

However, I've been burned more than once by companies that are not so enlightened, and so, when I write something from scratch and get to pick the licence myself, my rules are:

It's a standalone script or binary, it's GPL.
It's a library, it's LGPL.
It's a reference implementation I want people to use via copypaste, it's BSD.

My ball, my rules.
 
Which is fine and entirely off topic. Or are you trying to No True Scotsman your way out?  (edit tyop)
 
Great explanation in layman's terms.
 
Your breakdown mirrors my own, except:

If it's something where I will be annoyed if someone makes it only exist "in the cloud", AGPLv3 ( https://github.com/dtaht/gnugol )

I happen to be increasingly annoyed by stuff moving into the cloud and not escaping.

It's a standalone script or binary, it's GPL2.
It's a library, it's LGPL2.
It's a reference implementation I want people to use it's dual GPL2/BSD.
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