Friday, September 4, 2009

Open Source: What's That?

You may have heard the term 'open source' around these days.  It's an incredibly cool idea that's paramount to the way software, personal computing and ultimately library services are changing these days.  I recently found a great definition of Open Source when I was looking for some online tools teachers use:

Analogy: Think of OERs like a delicious cookie recipe that circulates the Internet freely for other people to use, modify and share.
Story: Sara has a wonderful family cookie recipe that she would like to share. So, she decides to post the recipe online so that her friend Michiko and others can find it. Upon printing off the recipe, Michiko decides to add dark chocolate chips to the recipe and finds that the cookies are much improved. So, she passes the recipe along to several others via the Internet. Mustafa gets a hold of the recipe and decides it would benefit from some rock salt and an egg yolk. He then posts the recipe for others to see… And so on! 
Just replace the 'cookie recipe' with programs like a web-browser, a wiki, a library database, photo editing software, or Google Docs.

It's really the direction computing is heading.  You may have also heard the phrase "cloud computing" which is directly related to open source.  Cloud computing means you no longer are tied to one computer (with software loaded on it) to use your favorite tools and software because they're all now online!  It's a very good thing for librarians.  It means you can sit down at any desk (not just yours back in your office) and have access to all your documents, spreadsheets, photos, videos and notes.