Building an Open-Source Community for Appropriate Technology

Thanks to Agroblogger for inviting me to join his ruminations on the benefits of an open-source model for appropriate and intermediate technologies. AB’s already got a good start with considerations on why the open-source software movement has worked so well and even come of age, and believes the creation and refinement processes, as well as the licensing practices, of open-source software could serve as a model for AT. Since I’m pretty new to the concept, my first inclination is to say “Right on,” and keep it at that…. but you know me better than that! I can think of several developments I’ve blogged about in recent months (the Play-Pump comes immediately to mind, as well as the Appleseed Biodiesel Reactor (which is open-source) that Ryan’s used to make biodiesel) that are marvelous examples of appropriate technology, and agree that an open-source model would hasten both the distribution and improvement of such inventions (I imagine it has in the Appleseed’s case). Mostly, though, I’d like to get a discussion going, one that I hope will occur between blogs as well as between sustainablog readers. Ryan, jump in. And, Jamais, if you’re out there, I know you know this stuff… I’d also imagine that some of you would want to push for a more traditional proprietary model, so jump in. I really like the open-source concept; at the same time, I’ll admit I’ve had trouble figuring out how to use open source software of various kinds (downloaded and fiddled with Audacity, for instance, more times than I care to count). Is this a concept that generally will appeal to the more technically inclined, but leave the rest of us out of the loop? But, of course, their are information-based “open source” models, too, like the wiki… Just thinking out loud… fire away.

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