Open Source Thomas Friedman Fourth Flattener Information Technology Essay

“The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century is an international bestselling book by Thomas L. Friedman that analyzes globalization, primarily in the early 21st century”. The book primarily focuses on the 10 forces that he list and believe are the reasons for the world going flat. Open Source is the fourth “flattener” that Friedman considers as one of the cause of flattening the global field and that has the most force of impact out of all the ten “flatteners”.

The Origins of Open Source

“Open sourcing, i.e., the process of creating and sharing knowledge in an electronic community” (Cockrell, Mitchell, & Stone, 2006). Open source describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product’s source materials. Some consider open source a philosophy, and others consider it a pragmatic methodology. “Before the term open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of phrases to describe the concept; open source gained hold with the rise of the Internet, and the attendant need for massive retooling of the computing source code. Opening the source code enabled a self-enhancing diversity of production models, communication paths, and interactive communities”.

“The concept of open source and free sharing of technological information has existed long before computers existed. There is open source pertaining to businesses and there is open source pertaining to computers, software, and technology” (Open Source, 2).

Open source became in existence on the Internet when the Internet was just a board to post messages. It grew into a more advanced presentation into the forms of sharing of a website. The sharing of everything about computers codes as an open source is now promoted by many websites.

The use of the label “open source” was suggested by Christine Peterson. She was attending a strategy session that was held in Palo Alto, California. “In April of 1998, Tim O’Reilly a technology publisher, lobbied for the use of the term “open source” at the “Freeware Summit” which became known later as the “Open Source Summit” (Open Source, 2). During the meeting the use of the name free software started a conflict. Michael Tiemann argued at the meeting for the use of “source ware” as a new term, but Eric Raymond argued for “open source” as a new term. There was a vote conducted by the developers at the gathering and the winner was named later that evening at a press conference. Five days later Eric Raymond made the first public plea for the free software community to accept the new term.

“Starting in the early 2000s, a number of companies began to publish a portion of their source code to claim they were an open source, while keeping key parts closed. This led to the development of the now widely used terms free open source software and commercial open source software to distinguish between truly open and hybrid forms of open source” (Open Source, 2).

Examples of Open Source

Friedman list three examples of open source that impact of flattening the world of globalization. The examples were open source software, blogs, and Wikipedia. I chose to write on two of his examples, which are blogs and Wikipedia. I found these two examples to be a major impact contributing to open source.

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The first example of open source to be discussed is blogs. “Weblogs, or blog, constitute a significant new development in the information world. They’re taking the business world by storm. From the perspective of records and information management (RIM) professionals, they present unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Leadership and policies are needed to shape and make optimal use of this new application” (Bruce W. Dearstyne, 2005). The majority of blogs makes the principles of information management and sound records be applied. There also are other issues of information management that has to be addressed.

During this time weblog were considered to be a fairly new information phenomenon, so the definition for it is subject to change. Here are some definitions of weblogs that Microsoft, Accenture, and Harvard Law School has defined weblogs as.

“Microsoft defines blogs as frequently updated personal web journals that can dramatically help both small and large companies communicate their product message. They increase people’s ability to share ideas and information exponentially, and on a worldwide scale” (Bruce W. Dearstyne, 2005).

Accenture defines blogs as an interactive website that lets the owner publish their information and ideas. It allows users to read and evaluate material. It also lets users to read and evaluate material. It also lets users add new contents, which creates a conversation between time zones and continents.

“Harvard Law School weighs in with a definition of blogs as a hierarchy of text, images, media objects, and data arranged chronologically, that can be viewed in an HTML browser. The center of the hierarchy is a sequence of weblogs posts each with a title, link, and description. The school’s Internet policy states that a weblog gives one a publication where ideas can stand without interference” (Bruce W. Dearstyne, 2005).

“Blogs vary from recitation of individual opinions and analysis to “aggregators” that mainly point readers to other blogs, websites, and other sources” (Bruce W. Dearstyne, 2005). Blogs are considered to be related to wikis but still yet not the same as wikis. Blogs are considered to be a collaboration of websites comprising works that are updated constantly by others. “Some are straightforward narrative; others allow visitors to add comments to the original content. Some are internal, i.e., accessible only within a company; others are posted on public websites for anyone to see and, in fact, aim to reach and influence a broad readership. Some are sponsored and include ads to defy costs or help turn a profit” (Bruce W. Dearstyne, 2005).

Many of the earliest blogs were established by an individual to share their most personal information and can be dated as far back as the late 1990s. Blogs gets their power from a lot of sources. They require cheap and easy to use software, which are easily to maintain and set up particularly for organizations that have their own website and computer expertise. They provide ways of gathering and organizing new ideas and opinions. They “thereby reinforce organizational objectives of fostering knowledge and information sharing a way of enhancing productivity” (Bruce W. Dearstyne, 2005). What makes blogging more appealing to readers is that they might not trust a corporate pronouncement and that they are unedited and unfiltered. Blog sometimes include links to other blog and websites, which provide readers with a fast and easy way of pursuing additional information. Blogs also have the capacity to “swarm” which means information is shared and spread very vastly. “Take away the hype, and blogs – particularly those generated by or inside a company – still have vast implications RIM professionals in many companies” (Bruce W. Dearstyne, 2005). Blogs are certainly here to stay and will continuously grow in importance. “In some ways, the challenges are akin to those associated with managing websites and e-mails: skyrocketing growth in volume, “hype” and “buzz” intermingled with objective facts, traditional records management practices partially, but not fully, applicable, information technology outstanding policy, technology getting the attention but information technology outstanding policy, technology getting the attention but information content and impact are what really counts legal implications needing definition, and blogs needing management in the context of over all information policy and records management programs” (Bruce W. Dearstyne, 2005).

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The next example of open source is Wikipedia. “Wikpedia is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its name is a portmanteau from wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning “quick”) and encyclopedia (from ancient Greek meaning “the circle of arts and sciences”)” (Wikipedia, 1). Over 150,000 volunteers wrote for the online encyclopedia. It has been stated that as of February 2008, the English version of Wikipedia has over 2.2 millions articles. Since the launch of Wikipedia in 200l the size of its contents has double every year.”In addition to being the largest encyclopedia in the world (Britannica counts 130,000 articles), Wikipedia is also the most widely used, rated ninth most active site in the world (higher than CNN.com or AOL.com) by Alexa.com and with a reach of 9.75% (of global Internet users) as of February 2008, compared to Britannica’s approximately 0.05%” (Prasarnphanich & Wagner, 2009). Based on the size, growth, and usage it can be considered a very successful encyclopedia.

The Wiki technology makes Wikipedia very unique. “Part of Wikipedia’s uniqueness, is it focus of interest, is its open architecture based on wiki technology. It may be difficult to understand the ‘unorthodox’ collaboration and knowledge creation process within Wikipedia without an insight into its enabling technology, the wiki, according to Leuf and Cunningham. The technology choice is significant, in that before founding Wikipedia, its co-founders first attempted to build another online encyclopedia (Nupedia) with a traditional editorial process of writing and without open access software. Nupedia yielded 24 completed articles during its existence, between 2000 and 2003. Larry Sanger, one of the founders of Wikipedia, formally announced the launch of Wikipedia on January 15, 200l as a single English language at www.wikipedia.com on Nupedia mailing list. Wikipedia, during its first 12 months of existence, and drawing on largely the same contributor community (according to co-founder Jimmy Wales), was able to create 12,000. “Nupedia and Wikipedia coexisted until the former’s servers were taken down permanently in 2003, and its text was incorporated into Wikipedia passed the 2 million-article mark on September 9, 2007, making it the largest encyclopedia ever assembled, eclipsing even the Yongle Encyclopedia (1407), which had held the record for exactly 600 years”. We therefore need to understand the collaboration model embedded in wiki technology, so as to reflect on its possible impact on contributors and the collaborative process” (Prasarnphanich & Wagner, 2009).

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“Wiki is a set of linked web pages, created through the incremental development by a group of collaborating users, as well as the software used to manage, manipulate, and publish the web pages” (Prasarnphanich & Wagner, 2009).

There are four unique characteristics of Wiki that are very similar to the uses of Wikipedia. These four characteristics are:

Collective Authoship – This means that no one person owns their own documents. Any other author can access someone else’s document and modify their pages, but first they must clean up their own pages. Authors can edit and save new versions of the pages whether they are registered or not. “This new feature has caused wiki to be characterized as a technology for community and other oriented people to promote individual egos” (Prasarnphanich & Wagner, 2009).

Instant Publication – Is when an author shares his new versions, it becomes instantly available for readers to view the pages. Instant publication gives the author who made the contribution a chance to see their outcome without any delays and pride of ownership. By the publications being made visible to other authors immediately gives them the benefit to build and add to their own associated knowledge. “Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales refers to this cumulative effect of incremental knowledge contributions as wiki magic: “Someone may write a three sentence [Wikipedia] article in the evening. And then something wonderful happens. Because in the next morning it may have grown to a seven paragraph article. This creates enthusiasm and involvement in the community”” (Prasarnphanich & Wagner, 2009).

Versioning – Manage and memorized web pages thus enables rollback, comparison, and difference identification. Version management safeguards the instant publication from destruction or vandalism by accident. Reporting author, date, tracking and prior changes are provided by the wikis temporal database.

Simplicity of Authorship – “Wikis are author friendly in that they do not require web publication skills” (Prasarnphanich & Wagner, 2009). The cost of participation and an individual’s loss is lowered by Wikis quality of authorship.

“Wikipedia has grown due to the use of wiki technology (and the corresponding wiki way), and the altruism of wiki contributors. Wikipedia strongly suggest the importance of technology (and the corresponding process and use practices). The interaction of collaborating enhancing technology, and the collaborative motives of contributors combined create the unique environment that made Wikipedia possible and successful” (Prasarnphanich & Wagner, 2009).

Conclusion

In conclusion open sourcing has shown to have a very large impact in the world of information technology. We are constantly sharing and collaborating information throughout many websites.

Computers users have access to the weblogs and Wikipedia databases and can make changes to any documents they want to. You do not have to be licensed to use these databases. There are no regulations on who can access the software. This is why open source is considered one of the most destructive forces for flattening the world of globalization.

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