Community Service through Peer Production

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From Humanitarian-FOSS Project Development Site

Ethical Principles

The fundamentals and foundations of this open source movement are inherently ethical. The practice of sharing, fixing, and creating software for others is nothing short of computer based community service. Without ethical people i.e. Internet users who encompass the moral principles taught to a first grader, open source would have been stopped dead in its tracks. This open source movement suggests that we are approaching a time in which actual businesses may see a relative decline in sales due to this booming age of community work that provides participants with an opportunity to write code or other texts free of restrictions and burdens present in the work force.

Ethically this movement means that many people are innately principled. The article notes that “people give gifts for many reasons besides sheer generosity, including a wish to reciprocate, to win favor, to impress onlookers or recipients or to place recipients in the giver’s debt,” however people involved in open source seem make contributions to the community if only for a humble satisfaction derived from helping others. To further this point, the study of the SETI project, which this article cites, reveals that most users participated for “the good of humanity,” which solidifies this community service idea.

Virtuous Societal Interactions

I agree with the authors implications that peer-production enterprises are virtuous and can help build a more moral society. As noted before, OS/OF fosters a community service-like environment. This community, like any other, is comprised of a few different “echelons,” if you will. While some people gain gratification for helping others, others are involved, not merely to make contributions, but also to learn. Take for example, a recent program I came across called Synergy, which allows users to manage multiple computers with one keyboard and mouse. The original software is available for free so clearly the author just wanted to provide for others. Additionally, other programmers have made patches and additions to Synergy in an effort to improve it. There is also a forum on Synergy that allows contributors and sideline watchers the opportunity to interact and learn. All three of these groups work in an effort to learn, improve, and develop something for the good of the community. Other open source examples, that do not really include this learning echelon, are the news websites that we studied, including the likes of Newsvine, and Wikinews, which provide users the opportunity to shed their personal opinions on articles they or others have submitted.

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