Addicted to novelty since 2001

Open Source Radio

CBC tech dude (and Northern Voice speaker) Tod Maffin is producing a short piece on the open source movement. As an experiment, he’s ‘open sourcing’ the production process:

I have set up a blog at I will post all aspects of the production of the piece as it comes together — from the pitch meeting with my producers, to script iterations, to the final piece. Here’s where you come in: As I post script versions, I’m hoping the community (that’s you!) will weigh in with your own suggestions for the piece: people to interview, suggestions for music beds, factual error corrections, and so on.

Sounds like an interesting project–tres We the Media. Coincidentally, I read about something similar, where David Berlind tried an experiment in media transparency.

2 Responses to “Open Source Radio”

  1. Richard

    This looks like a fairly accurate description of what “open source journalism” should be, that is, everything should be both public and replicable without resentment. That said, I don’t like the phrase “open source” before any journalism. “Open source” has a specific meaning in the programming community, meaning that the code required to compile a program is freely distributable and can be reused to compile that software, with or without modification, as long as the same license is conferred to the people that receive the software. (There are exceptions to this rule.) If you use “open source”, then the metaphor needs to somehow incorporate terms like lead developer, forking, merging, and so forth. There’s also the concept of freedom 0, that is, the freedom to use the software for any purpose whatsoever. Calling something other than computer software or hardware “open source” dilutes the “brand” open source computer software and hardware has.

    Better to go with the word “open”. Open Journalism sounds compelling alternative to the phrase “Open”, which would convey the same idea that the phrase “open source” is trying to get across without the tortured metaphor. Of course you’d have to define what “open” means, but to me, that means feedback is not only encouraged but is made public with little or no before-the-fact moderation or editing. Editors still exist, but they are accountable to their readers. It means that if people are not welcome to comment on the site (because they are being offensive or promoting illegal activities, etc.), they are banned but not prevented from starting their own site. It means that there are no (or very few secrets), that rumours are kept to an absolute minimum, and probably controversially, there’s no such thing as “a reliable source”. Instead, everybody who contributes is identifiable and is directly accountable for what they say. Also, like above, the journalistic processes are public and if possible (but not necessarily) replicable. Like open source (but not using that phrase), the instructions should be publicly available, so that, in theory, anybody can carry them out for any purpose.

    Also, there is no such thing as a “leak”, since if you’re committed to openness as an organization, then you should just make the information publicly available on your own site anyway. What does that mean for privacy? It means that if you’re in the business of “open journalism”, and you want to keep your privacy, then you’re siimply in the wrong business.

  2. Darren

    Richard: You may have seen this already, but a debate has already begun about the use of the term “open source”. Here’s what I said:

    “I wouldn’t sweat these distinctions about the term ‘open source’. Yes, it has its origins in software, but it’s increasingly being applied to a broad variety of fields. The power of the idea is rapidly exceeding the origin of the term. Language is fluid, and this is a great example of an evolving phrase.”

    I can’t think of a great example, but here’s a poor one: dongle. It originally meant “a copy protection device that attaches to an I/O port of a computer”. Now it has come to mean, more generally, “A small adaptor cable that connects”.

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