FCW cartoonist John Klossner imagines that open-source proponents probably encounter the same doubts that would be raised about superheroes.
While doing research for a cartoon and blog entry on open source software, I made a couple discoveries:
* Current discussions on Web 2.0 systems -- specifically social networks and cloud computing -- focus on the security questions that arise with new technologies. Many of these comments border on paranoia: After reading the comments sections of several articles, in fact, I worry that by posting this blog entry my bank account will be emptied tomorrow.
* As I read archived open source articles, I found that current fears over Web 2.0 technology echoed the fears expressed earlier about open source. Specifically, the security questions. But, as I read more recent entries on open source software, the worries subsided, and now there are numerous successful cases of agencies using open source software.
I call this the superhero phenomenon. Let's face it, the first time a guy showed up wearing long underwear with briefs on the outside (not to mention a cape and mask), folks weren't too ready to accept this as "help." People probably grumbled about how somebody that dressed this way couldn't possibly be secure, that a cape would be of no use in cold weather, and that those booties didn't look very safe (what if the car he was lifting dropped on his foot?).
But after watching this underwear-clad person lift a car, prevent a building from collapsing or win a reality show, people started to trust the underwear-on-the-outside guy. A couple influential voices might have even had their businesses saved by the superhero, allowing them to spread the word and winning the public over to the masked guy's side.
Entries / questions from comments sections when the first superhero appeared
* A recent battle between a superhero and a mutant space alien caused tremendous damage to the downtown infrastructure, resulting in increased taxes. Should we expect this from all future "rescues?"
* The entry into our community of superheroes will attract evil geniuses intent on battling these caped freaks. Are we prepared to suffer the threat this presents to our security?
* If this person uses x-ray vision, won't that contribute to climate change?
* Our local superhero hasn't provided us with a birth certificate. Should we allow him to save us from the mad scientist who lives on the next street?
* How soon until these "heroes" will start presenting us with invoices for services rendered? Or go to the other side for a better offer?
I'm not saying open source is a superhero; it's more like a team (the Fantastic Four, say). I'm just pointing out that open-source software is going through the same process in gaining public acceptance as superheroes did (and Web 2.0 technologies probably will). But this takes time, allowing for maturity of the technologies and public acclimation.
I imagine that social networks and cloud computing -- not to mention whatever technology is released next week that will make communications easier but have security concerns at the start -- will, by a combination of users becoming more comfortable with them and the providers fixing any glitches, be acceptable in the next few years. In the meantime, we need a superhero who can defend us from the comments sections.