Open Source Explained by Lego

One of the many lessons I cover in teaching digital technologies is the Open Source movement.

My explanation hinges on how computer software is based on human-readable code, when run through a compiler, results in binary that a computer can run. In order to improve the software, such as fixing a bug or adding a new feature, one needs access to the source code. Most commercial software keeps its code locked up, and they treat it as their own property. Open Source presents an alternative. It allows anyone to modify, improve, and redistribute the code as part of a collective effort to create a better product.

The folks at Bitblueprint and Moving Monday have produced a video explaining Open Source, using LEGOs.

We learn about open source through two “non-technical” examples: skateboarding and house building. However, those struck me as highly technical examples.

A less technical approach might be to explain what happens with musical compositions performed live by a cover band. In this case, a written musical composition would be the source. A composer could perform and record that song and allow others to perform and modify it as well. With this open source license, any other musician could the perform the composition and even rearrange it. Others could follow suit and adapt the composition into a variety of different genres. By releasing the musical composition into the world, the composer arguably gave it a much longer life than it would have had as the sole property of the composer.

The only drawback would be to distinguish between open source and public domain.

(Via WP Tavern.)

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