We could use open-source cooperation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 24, 2001

Who would have thought small community thinking could radically change the high-tech world? But it is doing just that.

Lots of talk has been made of late about a movement afoot in the computer community about open-source projects.

For some folks, it’s just another in a long string of buzz words that seem complicated and confusing.

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But open source is something that deserves a little broader attention – and in it are lessons which apparently came from small-town thinking.

In simple, basic terms, open source means that no one particular person or business owns the software. The software is open and shared among any user or developer who wants to take part.

Anyone can use the software without having to pay licensing fees or purchase anything.

It sounds too good to be true. But it works, quite well.

I’ve read that more than half of the commercial Web sites on the Internet operate with open-source operating systems and Web server software.

And it’s the kind of thing that can shake the foundations at Microsoft and the other software monoliths.

And, although I don’t know the full history of the open-source movement, I suspect it’s grown in popularity in part out of a frustration with big business holding all the cards.

Ultimately open source projects depend heavily on the goodness and kindness of others. It’s sort of a virtual neighborhood where everyone depends upon one another.

What’s really amazing is that this fabulous new high-tech system isn’t all that high-tech after all.

Small communities such as the Miss-Lou have been using the open-source model for decades.

We just call it helping out our neighbors.

Decades ago it was the norm. Today, as we often isolate ourselves from one another and have become wise to the ways of capitalism, we don’t expect anything free.

But fortunately the willingness to help our neighbors is still around – it’s just sometimes a bit less obvious to see.

What we as a community need to do is reembrace the open-source model..

Take most of the problems that face Natchez and apply the open-source mentality.

By all of us pitching in and helping, many of the problems either go away, or at least become less formidable.

I understand the late David Steckler sacrificed his time and money to help make the expansion of Duncan Park’s golf course a reality.

Just like the open-source software developers, Steckler wasn’t looking for glory or money, he simply wanted to help his neighbors and his town – and he did.

It seems that with a little bit of his spirit, projects such as building a recreational complex in Natchez and Adams County could become a reality much sooner than if we simply waiting for the government to do it all for us.

And making the recreational complex a reality doesn’t require any high-tech thinking, just some good old-fashioned neighborhood philosophy.

Kevin Cooper is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail at kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.