7 Truths that Open Source Struggles With: Page 2

Open source has performed miracles, but it still needs to face up to a few ongoing struggles.


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2. Open Source Meritocracy is Broken

Open Source prides itself on being a meritocracy that judges people entirely on what they do. That is a fine aspiration, and once or twice I have even seen it apparently being realized.

However, like any ideal, the concept of meritocracy can be used to conceal the exact same behaviors it is supposed to prevent, such as favoritism, bias, or centralization of power. After all, if a person is supposed to owe their influence solely to their accomplishments and contributions, they can easily claim to be unaffected by other motivations.

1. Diversity Is Inevitable.

Ever since LinuxChix was founded in 1999, open source has been known to be infected by systematic sexism, with a low rate of participation by women. In 2006, the FLOSSpols surveys suggested that open source consisted of less than 2% women, far less than in proprietary developments. More recently, the number of women involved in open source appears to be slowly increasing, with dozens of groups such as Outreachy working to improve their number.

This obvious fact has been explained away as a matter of choice, or of women's alleged lack of interest in computing science. Eric S. Raymond has blamed expressions of concern as an effort by so-called Social Justice Warriors or SJWs to undermine the perfect meritocracy of open source, but this explanation only provides evidence that the bias is institutional, rather than personal.

The fact is, the composition of open source projects is changing. They are no longer the preserve of white men, and this trend is only likely to continue.

Up the Nile to Sudan

Some of these assertions are likely to produce heated denials. However, all of them should be self-evident to anyone who takes the trouble to look around and observe what is happening. You may or may not approve of all of them, but they are real regardless.

The only real question is: When is open source going to accept them?

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Open Source App

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