July 2009

The editorial theme for the July issue of the OSBR is "collaboration". While online collaboration has been a hallmark of open source software (OSS) communities, the articles in this issue demonstrate that open collaboration extends far beyond the creation of software. The authors discuss diverse collaboration opportunities including: brainstorming across disciplines, social innovation, aggregating non-profit donations, the green environment movement, open educational resources, introducing students to communities, and managing single-user software applications.

As always, we encourage readers to share articles of interest with their colleagues, and to provide their comments either online or directly to the authors. We hope you enjoy this issue of the OSBR.

The editorial theme for the upcoming August issue of the OSBR is "tech entrepreneurship" and the guest editor will be David Hudson from Lead to Win. Submissions are due by July 20--contact the Editor if you are interested in a submission.

Dru Lavigne



Recently Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, was asked whether the future of innovation lies in collaboration. Before giving you his answer, let's consider the question ourselves.

Around the world, people collaborating using Berners-Lee's invention have achieved results too time consuming or expensive to accomplish otherwise. An open source operating system (Linux) and the world's largest encyclopedia (Wikipedia) are but two early, well-known examples.

It may be that the size of the challenges we face gives us no choice but to collaborate, that it is an adaptive response engaging us in the necessary work of reshaping our institutions and our societies in a time of global transition. The call to high purpose is a compelling one, and the evidence is that the response is being heard in many quarters. Collaboration can be fun, and it can also be frustrating.

This issue of the OSBR takes a closer look at these ideas. The papers assembled here, three of which were written collaboratively, look at the nature of collaboration itself. They introduce new ideas and tools for open source collaboration; and examine how collaboration on open source and open content is changing formal education.

Citing inventors from Gutenberg to Darwin, author and teacher Joseph Wilson reminds us that innovative ideas often come from collaboration across disciplines. The Treehouse Group, of which he is a co-founder, conducts highly engaging and enjoyable events to elicit the creative contributions of diverse audiences, with results that are often astonishing.

Anil Patel and I propose “Applied Collaboration Studios” as a means of transforming the social sector. In our model, open source technologies and social process tools would support new “collaboration platforms”, involving private and public sector partners in generating continuous social innovation.

Peter Deitz and Christine Egger describe how Social Actions came into being, and explore what lies ahead for this database that aggregates information from various on-line portals, making it possible for programmers to create a new generation of tools for social engagement.

Evan Andrews, an analyst with Sylvatica, a Life Cycle Assessment consultancy, introduces the Earthster project and issues a call for open source tools to map the ecology of industrial processes, a fundamental step in our efforts to build a sustainable economy.

Two papers consider the use of open source and open content in formal education systems. In the first, Norm Friesen outlines the history of such efforts, and contrasts the opportunities and challenges inherent in creating learning resources using wikis, with an open courseware approach that emphasizes wide sharing of course materials and technologies.

In the second paper, Chris Tyler describes how he teaches students to participate in solving real world problems by having them contribute to open source communities around the Mozilla project and OpenOffice.org.

Finally, Andy Adler, John C. Nash and Sylvie Noël introduce TellTable, an open source framework they have developed that allows single user applications to be used collaboratively and with ease.

Together, the papers in this issue provide an answer to the question posed to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, one with which he concurred. It is a decided “yes”!

Stephen Huddart

Guest Editor

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