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Open Knowledge Definition

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This page is intended to discuss a possible merge of the Open Knowledge Definition and the Free Content Definition.

Open issues:

  • Are there philosophical differences?
  • Are there freedoms which are granted by one, but not the other?
  • Which name should be used? "Free Content and Open Knowledge Definition" has been suggested.
  • What subject matter is aimed at by the definition.
  • Do we have a general definition which is then 'derived' to produce a definition for a specific area

There seem to be 3 options:

  1. Merge the two efforts
  2. Keep the FCD and the OKD seperate but mutually referenced
  3. Leave them entirely seperate

The name[edit]

It has been suggested that a name like "Free Content and Open Knowledge Definition" is used. There are arguments in favor and against such a name change:

(As written in an initial mail to Erik) 'Free' vs. 'Open'. This is an old chestnut that can lead to a lot of debate without any resolution. In my experience 'open' has been easier to use (hence the 'Open Knowledge Foundation') as there is no confusion between 'libre' and 'gratuit'. Also, at least outside software (and perhaps content), most talk is of 'open' e.g. open geodata, open access, open data etc. However I believe this a moot point and Erik's suggestion to go with something like 'Free Content and Open Knowledge Definition' might be an easy way to cover both bases. --RufusPollock

One argument against it is that we would have to drop the "Free Expression" bit, which is currently a way to reach out to artists who may not like the term "content".

A common argument in favor of "open" is that it is less ambiguous. However, as the OKFN web site itself points out, there are different meanings of "open", just like there are different meanings of "free" (comment by RufusPollock: it might be better to have named that article the 'three aspects of openness' rather than 'the three meanings' since the clear intent was to point out that meaningful 'openness' must incorporate all three perspectives). It also seems to be true that the word "open" is easier to dilute than the word "free". While ambiguous when unexplained, once defined, "free" is fairly uncompromising in its meaning. Both the terms "open access" and "open content" have become highly diluted, while "free content" has pretty much held its current meaning even without an official definition, simply because of the strength of the existing connotations of freedom, and its association with the movement that believes strongly in these principles.

One could argue, of course, that the strength of the one depends on the weakness of the other. "Free software" might have been diluted by the same people who prefer to use "open source".

In Wikimedia, we have long adopted "free content" as the preferred term, to parallel "free software". It's true that "open" is very much used in certain areas, particularly science. This could be an argument for "free content", as a better way to distinguish it. "Open Knowledge" is another term which sounds a lot like "Open Access", and might be easily confused with it. We are, after all, trying to reduce confusion, not to increase it.--Erik Möller 13:19, 4 May 2006 (CEST)

I agree that "open" is rather vague and has less rhetorical power than "free". It may be that it's the precise reason the Open Knowledge Definition isn't quite well-known. "Open Knowledge" is weak IMO. Not only both terms are rather vague, they don't impress the mind. But it is also a mistake to mix "knowledge" and works of the mind (contents). "Contents" can convey or embody knowledge, but they are much more than knowledge (that's why traditionnally knowledge is free but contents are covered by copyright, btw.). It's not helpful to blur the distinction between both, and say knowledge when we really mean contents (creations of the human mind).
So, we could either merge with them (and try to convince them of a better name ;-)). Or we could also continue working on our own definition, and try to ensure that it is roughly equivalent to the Open Knowledge Definition (the same way the FSD is roughly equivalent to the OSD). Multiplicity is not a bad thing, provided there is interoperability.
By the way, what do you think about settling on a single name for the Free Content Definition? (see Talk:Which_name_should_you_use?#A_choice_must_be_made). --Antoine 14:40, 4 May 2006 (CEST)

Paths of naming[edit]

Please see Talk:Which name should you use?#Paths of naming.--Erik Möller 16:48, 4 May 2006 (CEST)