OpenFiction [Blog]

A note about passion

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on June 19, 2006

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the daily contact with people from all over the world who are passionate about doing good things. I can count on probably two fingers the number of people I’ve met in the States and abroad through the project who aren’t just absolutely hell-bent on positive change. Amid the chaos of violence and hatred that seems to dominate the news, this passion continually refreshes my hope that the world may yet be a better place for my children. Yes, there are debates about the best way to effect change, but these debates all occur within a shared framework of passion for a better world, and I see them all as steps in the right direction.

Which is a long-winded way of saying I appreciate Joseph Wang’s passion for open sharing, but I’m frankly not sure I can keep up with him and keep my day job! See his posts here, here, here and here. Anyway, I’m happy to keep up a dialogue, but unless we can bring a little more focus to it, I’m not sure I can respond effectively. I’d like to hear carefully reasoned support for the repeated assertion that the NC clause kills mass collaboration, as I’m still not convinced on that point. Why for instance, would Wikipedia have been less successful had they included an NC clause? Are there comparisons of NC vs. non-NC projects out there that demonstrate this effect?

Here’s the one piece of evidence I’ve heard on the subject, from David Wiley writing on the IIEP forum list:

It should be intuitively obvious that the more restriction-options included in a license, the less freedoms the license presents the end user. What may not be immediately obvious, however, is that license selection behavior by users increases as the number of license restrictions increases. In other words, almost no people want to reserve no rights, and almost all people want to reserve all rights. This is hypothesis is empirically verifiable and, at a high level, the behavior is very stable:

http://opencontent.org/docs/flickr_and_cc.html

So, providing CC-By as a default license does create the greatest freedom for users downstream, but very few people are apt to adopt this license. Providing By-NC-SA provides slightly fewer freedoms to users downstream, but many more people are apt to adopt this license. In a recent survey of Flickr discussed in the paper above, there were 1,212,885 photos licensed By-NC-SA and only 338,543 licensed By. A correlation of photos licensed with all licenses between October 2004 and August 2005 shows that selection behavior is *highly* stable (r = 0.997) even though the total number of photos licensed grew from 81,090 to 3,466,052 during this period.

The result? If we’re going to choose one license and force participants to use it…we appear to have a choice between a very few, very free contributions and a larger number of less free contributions.

Passion is an essential ingredient for open sharing, yes, and I agree with a great many of the points made by Joseph. But I do think there’s a need for careful reasoning and examination of evidence in all of this, as I’m just not seeing the damage that’s being described. If anything, the above suggests that Wikipedia would be even more successful with an NC clause. In the end, this may simply be a question of whether you value contributors’ rights over the rights of others to use the contribution. Perfectly willing to accept this may be a matter of perspective.

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