[okfn-discuss] The importance of modules

Prodromos Tsiavos p.tsiavos at lse.ac.uk
Wed Nov 16 08:58:22 UTC 2005

Dear All, 

With some delay I am posting my views on the way open knowledge
definitions and (potentially) licences should move forward.

It is a rather long one, so please be patient with me!

I have had a first look into the OK knowledge definition and some of the
comments provided in the list and have a couple of really brief comments
of my own. Please forgive me if some of the issues I am raising have
been covered in the past by the list, but I did not have the opportunity
to check it in depth. So:

(a) the openness as a package vs the modularized openness issue: This is
a rather fundamental issue in relation to how openness is both defined
and achieved. One of the biggest problems of the any "open" movement is
how you define openness and indeed this is -I guess- one of the reasons
of existence of the Open Knowledge Forum itself. The way the whole
debate is structured is -to my opinion- of a rather "binary" nature:
either some form of "disseminating" knowledge is open or it is not. But
are we really getting anywhere with such an approach? The different
character of different types of knowledge, e.g. software vs content (to
use a copyright differentiation) calls for different types of openness
and different approaches on how it may achieved. To give an example: the
way people cooperate and coordinate in order to create music is much
different from the way in which people organize themselves in order to
co-produce a piece of text. This difference entails a need for different
"rights" or "liberties" under different "dissemination models". This is
true even for different types of content, e.g. music vs. sound or vs
So what is my suggestion: follow an approach SIMILAR (I emphasize NOT
the same) as the one CC used, that is: [1] Modularize the openness
principles (the breakdown you have on the site in sections is a good
first step) [2] debate on the definitions of each of the modules [3]
create icons or other user-friendly symbols for each one of them [4]
debate on plain language that could be used to describe these symbols
[5] make sure that the plain language does not underestimate the
intelligence of the user of the "openness module", i.e. (unlike CC ;-))
make sure that the plain language describes the WHOLE content of the
right/ liberty the module contains [6] agree with the major
organizations in the field (that is EFF, FSF, CC) on a particular
content for these modules [7] either use them to freely create
variations of the "licences" or "permissions" for the dissemination of
material or 
[8] describe existing licences using these schemes or
[9] create a maximum Open K Definition and a minimum O K Definition and
rate whatever is in the middle. [10] Develop clear guidelines for how
this could be done [similar to what you are doing or the OSI, FSF and
Debian Legal are doing]

To restate my point: there is a difference between:
- the test to check openness
- an open knowledge archetype "licence" (or whatever you want to call
it. I am using the term not in its legal sense, that's why the "")
- modules of an open K "licence"
- degrees of openness 

Possibly it is valuable to go for each one of these rather than trying
to do them all at once and in one or possibly I am wrong. 

Practically, you are already doing much of this, but all I am saying is
that some further clarity on what we are trying to accomplish may be

(b) The participation issue: this is a broader issue on which I am
currently working and will hopefully have a first paper in a couple of
weeks. It is not mere openness that is required but participation if
change is to be effected in the way knowledge is contained and
disseminated today. 
I see participation in the following senses:
- participation of the creators/ debaters of any "licence" to the actual
use of it and the other way around. This may seem to many a marginal
issue, but for me it is not. Let me explain my point: there is a marked
difference between the way F/OS and CC have been developed. The CC was
initiated by soft developers that then decided that the existing
Copyright system would lead them nowhere and needed to legally express
their way of doing things. GPL is an expression pretty much of that. CC
was inspired by GPL but was mainly a law professors/ academics
initiative for the creative people. Well there is a difference: in the
first case the creator of the regulation (i.e. the GPL) is its user,
whereas in the latter there are two (in most of the cases) different
sets of actors (lawyers vs creative people). Which are the implications
for the way CC is going to evolve I have no clue, but it is definitely
something to be followed. From my interaction with the creative
community this gap is already evident. I could elaborate on that if you
are interested.
- participation in the broader policy debates, lobbying, litigation.
Again make a comparison between the CC and the GPL. They follow
different routes of influencing the process and have a different
culture, though here CC groups are also very effective because of their
profession and position: they (we I should say) are lawyers,
bureaucrats, in short what we call the establishment. 
- participation in the use of material licensed under open schemes, e.g.
developers using F/OS, creators using CC. Which are the structures that
facilitate this participation? E.g. sourceforge is such a structure.
KForge could be a similar one. Which features should we try to develop?
What are we trying to achieve through this participation? What kind of
rules should govern this participation?

Again most of these issues have been covered by OKFN but all I am doing
here is explicating them so that we may pursue them in a more systematic

Thanks for your time

-----Original Message-----
From: okfn-discuss-bounces at lists.okfn.org
[mailto:okfn-discuss-bounces at lists.okfn.org] On Behalf Of Rufus Pollock
Sent: ?e?t??a, 31 ??t?ß???? 2005 2:23 µµ
To: okfn-discuss at lists.okfn.org
Subject: [okfn-discuss] introduction to okfn-discuss: purpose and

Dear All,

The okfn-discuss list, which is public, has been set up for discussion 
among the board, between the board and the members, and between members 
themselves (if this list ever gets too busy then we will move 
administrative stuff elsewhere).

The purpose of setting up the OKF Network was twofold:

   1. To provide a loose community of similar minded projects/groups 
(analogy with Apache Software Foundation)
   2. To provide infrastructure to 'open knowledge' projects, especially

campaigning ones, in a sustainable and responsive manner

Point 2 is of particular importance. It has been my experience that 
technical stuff (webhosting, mailing lists etc) while secondary to the 
activities of a project/group can often make a major difference (either 
for good or ill) in allowing the project/group to pursue its primary 
objectives (we have probably all experienced the situation where we 
can't alter some vital web page or set up a mailing list because the 
sysadmin was away or too busy or ....).

It is my hope that the Network by being a bit more 'institutional' (e.g.

having a governance document, having this list) can avoid some of these 
pitfalls, for examply by ensuring there isn't just one person on whom 
all access depends, that there is a good balance between responsiveness 
to members and good, secure sysadminning etc. Some of you I know, 
(Martin, Pete especially) have had experience with similar projects in 
the past and I hope you will share the wisdom so gained with us as we go

forward in this endeavour.



Current members of this list

(* indicates OKFN board member)

Jo Walsh (*)
Martin Keegan (*)
Francis Irving
Prodromos Tsiavos (*)
Pete Clay
Tom Chance
John Bywater (*)
Julian Priest
Saul Albert (*)
Peter Lockley (*)
Rufus Pollock (*)

Network members to whom technical services are provided

   * Freeculture-UK
   * WSFII
   * Geo
   * DRN
   * KnowledgeForge
   * OKFN and OKF themselves

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