The 90s, Stigmergy, and Courage

I would be lying if I said I completely understood all of the readings we had this past week. It was a lot of information to take it. (Click here to follow along with our course readings). My biggest takeaways are somewhat random and disconnected, but I’ll do my best to tie them all together.

When I think of the 90s, it feels like it was 10 years ago…max. To realize we are 20 years past the mid-90s is kind of mind blowing. Aside from starting to feel like an old person and think where did the last 20 years go?, I was surprised to learn more about the history of open movements. Eric Raymond wrote “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” in 1997 (referring to events that had taken place as early as 1993) and the first version of the Debian Free Software Guidelines was published that same year. To think open source software (referred to free software prior to 1998) was already an idea and movement at that time makes me realize just how long this has been a concern for others. Open has been a topic of discussion since I was in elementary school; I find comfort in that fact.

Knowing that there really are others who are working on open, and working on it for so long, feels like there are pioneers we can follow. Without ever having to interact with them directly, we are able to follow in their footsteps to a certain extent. While the open source, open access, open data, and open educational resources movements are not exactly the same, we are able to learn from each other. David introduced us to the concept of stigmergy. Our class thought that was a made-up word, like a hybrid of stigma and synergy, but it is actually a really word. Wikipedia defines stigmergy as:

a mechanism of indirect coordination, through the environment, between agents or actions. The principle is that the trace left in the environment by an action stimulates the performance of a next action, by the same or a different agent. In that way, subsequent actions tend to reinforce and build on each other, leading to the spontaneous emergence of coherent, apparently systematic activity.

David presented it in a slightly different way than tying the movements together, but it is motivating to see the connection between them all. And that is where I find courage. Linus’s Law, as so dubbed by Eric Raymond, together with the principle to release early and release often essentially means you are putting yourself out there for others to find bugs that exist in your work. These bugs can be an actual bug in a program, a grammatical error in a blog post, or a myriad of other things that might not be quite perfect just yet. But if the ultimate goal is to advance a field or progress knowledge, isn’t that done more effectively if you put your ideas out there to get feedback on how terrible they are, how much potential they may have, or how they can be improved/tweaked for the benefit of others? Isn’t that the trace you can leave behind for somebody else to pick up and make their own?

Open source, open access, open educational resources (in no particular order haha)

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