Open Source and Open Society: using Plone to build community online

published Oct 12, 2007, last modified Jan 30, 2008

Plone conference 2007, Naples. Speaker: Tom Moroz From: Open Society Institute

Plone conference 2007, Naples. Speaker: Tom Moroz From: Open Society Institute

I hope at the end of this talk you will see that you are all part of the open society.

I am from the Open Society Institute (OSI; do not confuse this with the Open Source Initiative). We aim to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic, legal, and social reform. On a local level we have several initiatives to support education and other things. We build alliances across borders.

We have national foundations is 32 countries. Founder is billionaire George Soros from Hungary. He was effected by the philosophy of Karl Popper. We have programs and give grants in over 60 countries.

Key initiatives

Some of our key initiatives are:

  • advocacy
  • education, scholarships, school building
  • media, information
  • local government, make them more effective
  • human rights, we look at that in all the other programs
  • justice
  • public health, HIV/AIDS mostly in Africa, tuberculosis in Russia

Open Source

A broad definition of open source: a set of principles that promote open access to the design and production of goods and knowledge.

This applies to software development, but also government, media (blogs are part of this), education, and business.

Key elements of both open source and open society:

  • Knowledge is provisional and fallible. You have to check it. You have to be able to check it. An open source release is not going to be perfect in the first release. That release brings more people to the software and they check how good the software/knowledge is.
  • Responsiveness: fix reported bugs quickly. Get a deep understanding of the problem and then fix it, which is the same in open society.
  • Transparency: the code is open or the information is open. We publish numbers of how much is being spent where to rebuild Iraq.
  • Pluralistic and multi-cultural. We respect minorities. (Plone cares about internationalisation, ed.)
  • High degree of responsibility. The individual should interpret her value. No-one is forcing anyone to do anything. You feel responsible anyway. You are involved and want to be a good member of the community.
  • Freedom and human rights are at the foundation.
  • Social mobility and a matter of openness. It does not matter where you come from.

The path to Karl

In 2001 we did an intranet study but not much was done. It was not felt needed: surely the OSI would not be needed in 2010 anymore so why build a knowledge base? We were wrong. In August 2005 we had a board meeting. Several programs were working on HIV, but not much knowledge was shared. So we needed something to help us here.

We looked at closed source options. In July 2006 we decided to go with an Open Source solution as this was in line with our own goals and vision. Plone was chosen. May 2007: launch of our website Karl, version 1.0. Next Monday we will have a new launch.

The name is the first name from Karl Popper and it is also an acronym for Knowledge And Resource Locator. About 160 communities are already using Karl. We are amazed at that. People were not at all resisting the change. They wanted to use it soon.

The path forward

OSI shows the future global potential of collaboration. We are like a caterpillar that needs to change into a butterfly. It takes people collaborating in order effect that change.