#Occupy is a Wikimovement. Not a Facebook-revolution

This week the Dutch quality newspapers NRC (abridged version) and NRC next (full version, below) published my opinion piece on the #occupy-movement and the occupation of Beursplein in Amsterdam and the (attempted) occupation of the Binnenhof in The Hague. The article argues that #occupy must be seen as an open source-movement – a wikiprotest. This explains why many a babyboomer of the ludic 1960s or the political 1970s and many a member of the lost generation of the cynical 1980s or the ironic 1990s struggles to understand its methods, organisation and aims. Whereas the network generation attempts to create, after Wikipedia, a movement that anyone can edit, a movement that is self-organised, inclusive and open-ended, they merely see a protest without strong leaders, clear demands and ultimatums. (Courtesy NRC NRC next).










































There are 2 comments

  1. Roland Bouman

    R vd Akker’s article in NRC Next argues that “the #Occupy movement distinguishes itself from past activist movements by consistent application of the opensourcemodel (sic)”.

    It defines this opensourcemodel (as if there is only one) as free accessibility to some source material, and the freedom to alter it, provided the derivative thus achieved is again freely accessible, and then gives examples (Wikipedia, Linux, Python and Firefox). The definition and examples are quite appropriate.

    The article goes downhill after this point in its comparison to the #occupy movement. And by making the comparison, it does a disservice to true open source projects like Linux, Python, and Firefox (and many ones not mentioned in this article). Let me try and explain why.

    The article claims that successful open source projects “have a simple beginning”, “don’t exclude anyone” and “leave it up to volunteers to decide which contributions are being delivered”. The article then continues to describe the #occupy movement as “a movement that anyone can edit”, and uses this premisse to explain why it (currently) doensn’t have clear goals and leaders.

    Presumably, the author tries to convince the reader that this “anyone can edit” business is somehow similar to the ability to “change the source” of an open source project. However, the properties which the author mentions as exemplary of successful open source projects cannot be demonstrated in the actual examples of successful open source projects. Linux and Python are classic examples of projects that are characterized by strong and decisive leadership of their respective founders (Linus Torvalds and Guido van Rossem) and although focused on open source, Mozilla is more or less a company with a traditional hierarchical organization.

    While it is true that any individual can modify the source code of open source projects (like Linux, Python and Firefox), the mainline (argueably the one that really matters) of these products is tightly controlled. While it is true that any individual can “fork” the code, in reality such a fork is almost never successful.

    Apart from forking, the only other way individuals can permanently change the mainline is by getting their contributions adopted by the mainline. If contributions are accepted, they typically undergo a highly structured and often lengthy review process. Here, Exclusion is rather rule than exception, and in many cases it’s not a volunteers job either: Linux and Python and strongly backed by companies (in the case of Linux, it’s a whole bunch, like IBM, Oracle, RedHat and Novell; in the case of Python, it’s Google) that ultimately have commercial goals, and the majority Mozilla development is also done by regular paid employees, not volunteers.

    In my opinion, Linux, Python and Mozilla are successful precisely because they are so tightly controlled, and because they do have clear leaders. And the only way it can be like this is because they in fact do exclude people and organizations from participating. To me this seems in stark contrast with the touchy feely kind of image the author paints of the #occupy movement.


Comments are closed.