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Open Source AI: Establishing a common ground

Tue, 2023-11-28 08:00

The current draft v. 0.0.3 of the Open Source AI Definition borrows wordings from the GNU Manifesto’s golden rule stating: 

If I like a program, I must be able to share it with others who like it.

The GNU Manifesto

The GNU Manifesto refers to “program” (not “AI system”), without the need to define it.  When it was published in 1985, the definition of a program was pretty clear. Today’s scene around artificial intelligence is not as clear and there are multiple definitions for AI systems floating around.

The process of finding a shared definition of Open Source AI is only in its infancy. I’m fully aware that for many of us here this is trivial and this phase is almost boring. 

But the four workshops revealed that a significant number of people in the rooms did not know the 4 Freedoms nor had any idea that OSI has a formal Open Source Definition. And this happened also at two Open Source-focused events!

Which definition of AI system to adopt

I don’t think the Open Source community should write its own definition of an AI system as there are too many dangers with doing that. Most importantly, adopting a vocabulary foreign to the AI world increases the risks of not being understood or accepted. It’s a lot more effective and will be more palatable to use a widely adopted definition.

The OECD definition of AI system

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published one in 2019 and updated it in November 2023. OECD’s definition has been adopted by the United Nations, NIST and the AI Act may use it too. 

An AI system is a machine-based system that, for explicit or implicit objectives, infers, from the input it receives, how to generate outputs such as predictions, content, recommendations, or decisions that can influence physical or virtual environments. Different AI systems vary in their levels of autonomy and adaptiveness after deployment

Recommendation of the Council on Artificial Intelligence Adopted on:  22/05/2019; Amended on:  08/11/2023

 I discovered a 2022 document of the OECD with a slightly amended definition from the one of 2019.The 2022 OECD Framework for the Classification of AI systems removes the words “or decisions” from their previous definition, saying in the note :

Experts Working Group decided [“or decisions”] should be excluded here to clarify that an AI system does not make an actual decision, which is the remit of human creators and outside the scope of the AI system 

2022 OECD Framework for the Classification of AI systems

The updated definition used by the Experts WG is:

An AI system is a machine-based system that is capable of influencing the environment by producing recommendations, predictions or other outcomes for a given set of objectives. It uses machine and/or human-based inputs/data to:

  1. perceive environments;
  2. abstract these perceptions into models; and
  3. use the models to formulate options for outcomes.

AI systems are designed to operate with varying levels of autonomy (OECD, 2019f[2]).”

2022 OECD Framework for the Classification of AI systems

Surprisingly, the version amended in November 2023 by the OECD still uses the words “or decisions”.

The definition of AI system for US National Institute of Standards (NIST)

NIST AI Risk Management Framework slightly modified the OECD definition that includes the word “outputs”:

The AI RMF refers to an AI system as an engineered or machine-based system that can, for a given set of objectives, generate outputs such as predictions, recommendations, or decisions influencing real or virtual environments. AI systems are designed to operate with varying levels of autonomy (Adapted from: OECD Recommendation on AI:2019; ISO/IEC 22989:2022)

AI Risk Management Framework The definition of AI system in Europe

To complete the picture, I also looked at the EU. In a document from 2019, in the early days of the legislative process, the expert group on AI suggested:

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are software (and possibly also hardware) systems designed by humans that, given a complex goal, act in the physical or digital dimension by perceiving their environment through data acquisition, interpreting the collected structured or unstructured data, reasoning on the knowledge, or processing the information, derived from this data and deciding the best action(s) to take to achieve the given goal. AI systems can either use symbolic rules or learn a numeric model, and they can also adapt their behaviour by analysing how the environment is affected by their previous actions.

As a scientific discipline, AI includes several approaches and techniques, such as machine learning (of which deep learning and reinforcement learning are specific examples), machine reasoning (which includes planning, scheduling, knowledge representation and reasoning, search, and optimization), and robotics (which includes control, perception, sensors and actuators, as well as the integration of all other techniques into cyber-physical systems).

High-Level expert group on AI: Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI

It’s worth noting that this definition is not used in the AI Act. The text of the EU Council suggests this one be used: 

artificial intelligence system’ (AI system) means a system that

  1. receives machine and/or human-based data and inputs,
  2. infers how to achieve a given set of human-defined objectives using learning, reasoning or modelling implemented with the techniques and approaches listed in Annex I, and
  3. generates outputs in the form of content (generative AI systems), predictions, recommendations or decisions, which influence the environments it interacts with;

which seems to be quite similar to the OECD text.

Why we need to adopt a definition of AI system

There is agreement that the Open Source AI Definition needs to cover all AI implementations and not be specific to machine learning, deep learning, computer vision or other branches. That requires using a generic term. For software, the word “program” covers everything, from assembly, interpreted to compiled languages. “AI system” is the equivalent in the context of artificial intelligence.

“Program” is to software as “AI system” is to artificial intelligence.

In the document What is Free Software, the GNU project describes four fundamental freedoms that the “program” must carry to its users. Draft v. 0.0.3 similarly describes four freedoms that the AI system needs to deliver to its users.

In v. 0.0.3 draft there was debate on the wording of the freedom — freedom to modify. For software, that’s the freedom to modify the program to better serve user’s needs, fix bugs, etc. Draft v. 0.0.3 says:

Modify the system to change its recommendations, predictions or decisions to adapt to your needs.

Draft v.0.0.3

The intention to specify what the object of the change is to establish the principle that anyone should have the right to modify the behavior of the AI system as a whole. The words “recommendations, predictions or decisions” come from the definition of AI system: what does the “system” do and what would I want to modify?

That’s why it’s important to say what it is we expect to have the right to modify. Tying that to an agreed-upon definition of what an AI system does is a way to make sure that all readers are on the same page.

We can change the wordings for that bullet point but I think the verb “modify” should refer to the whole system, not individual components.

We’re trying to adopt a definition of an AI system that is widely understood and accepted, even though it’s not strictly correct scientifically. The Open Source AI Definition should align with other policy documents because many communities (legal, policy makers and even academia) will have to align too. 

The newest definition of AI system from the OECD is the best candidate, without the words “or decisions.”

Next steps

I met with the Digital Public Goods Alliance in Addis Ababa on November 14. I expected to encounter a different assortment of competences than the ones I’ve met so far, and that was true. How far we are from consensus on basic principles is something I’m contemplating before releasing draft v.0.0.4 and move on to the next phase of public conversations. For 2024 we’re planning a regular cadence of meetings (online and in- person) and a release roadmap leading to a v. 1.0 before the end of the year. More to come.

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Categories: FLOSS Research

DPGA members engage in Open Source AI Definition workshop

Wed, 2023-11-22 14:36

The meeting of the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA) members in Addis Ababa was very informative. The OSI led a workshop to define Open Source AI and joined the subsequent presentation by the AI Community of Practice (CoP) of the DPGA. There were about 40 people in the room, split into seven groups of 5-6 people each. They were asked to review individually the four basic elements of the draft Open Source AI Definition and provide suggestions. Few people were familiar with developing AI systems and almost no lawyers. In the audience there were mostly policy makers and DPG product owners (not developers.)

Results of the Open Source AI workshop

There was a fair amount of agreement that the wording as illustrated was fairly good but required some tweaks. Most of the tables were eager to widen the scope of the Definition to include principles of ethics.

Some of the most notable comments:

  • In order to study the AI system it must be possible to understand the design assumptions behind the AI system and another group suggested adding a reference to explainability of its outcomes. 
  • One group highlighted that the purpose of studying the AI system is to gain confidence, understand the risks it poses, its limits and provide a path to improve it. They recommended a more extensive wording to clarify that being able to inspect its components (datasets, assumptions, code, etc) is important. They also added that data is not strictly necessary to be fully made available, putting privacy as one reason.
  • On the “modify” question, the group suggested simplifying the wording, replacing … with “outputs”.
  • On “sharing”, the group recommended to limit the shareability to responsible purposes, extending the scope of their recommendations also to the Use.
  • There needs to be a fifth principle to “do no harm”

A surprising outcome came from a group that felt that the verbs (study, use, modify, share) in the draft definition are not sufficient and new ones are necessary for AI. They brainstormed and came up with an initial list: train, tend (curate and store), evaluate (its capabilities) and evoke the model. This was a fascinating conversation that I promised to continue with its main proponent.

The comments received gave me a chance to close the workshop explaining why the Open Source Definition doesn’t prescribe respecting the law and avoids discussing ethics and why the OSI recommends moving these issues outside of licenses and into project governance and policies. 

It was energizing to see DPGA members having such a good opinion of Open Source and its power to be positively transformative that people want it to do more good with it. But injecting ethical principles into open definitions overloads them massively. The OSI will have to do more to explain that a definition should no more be dictating “acceptable use” than Meta, Alphabet or anyone else. Ethical considerations are highly contextual and there are rarely clear answers that a universal standard like the Open Source Definition and the future Open Source AI Definition cannot reasonably cover. The DPG Standard, on the other hand, is a more suitable document to include ethical considerations because it’s more contextual to deployment of technologies.

A working group presenting their edits The working groups at their tables The activity of a working group Group working at the AI workshop DPGA members in Addis Ababa Group working at the AI workshop DPGA members in Addis Ababa Notes from the Community of Practice meeting

The second half of the afternoon saw the Community of Practice on AI systems as digital public goods, co-hosted by the DPGA and UNICEF. They showed their first approach to distinguish the degrees of openness of an AI system’s components. The CoP has a very difficult task with two major obstacles. The first is they have to come up with a proposal to update the DPG Standard to cover AI before a well established definition of Open Source AI exists. The second is that they need to look at the intersection of responsible and open AI, balancing the values of “open” with a set of risks that are not yet fully understood either. All while technology evolves rapidly and the AI business ecosystem spreads FUD in all directions.

I’ve been highly skeptical about this gradient approach, which is not too different from what Irene Solaiman at Hugging Face proposed. As someone in the audience said: Introducing a gradient approach for DPG AI risks creating an opening to also have a gradient for software, diluting the mandate for Open Source software in the DPG Standard. With the race to create “quasi-open-source” licenses, the threat is too real to dismiss.I believe that Open Source AI can be as binary as Open Source software and the way to achieve that is to look not at the individual components of AI systems but at the whole. The next phase of OSI’s work on the Open Source AI Definition will explore exactly this aspect, diving deeper into practical examples. What do I need in order to study, use, share and modify something like LAIoN’s Open Assistant?

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Categories: FLOSS Research

Closing the 2023 rounds of Deep Dive AI with first draft piece of the Definition of Open Source AI

Mon, 2023-11-06 10:00

We embarked on a process, promising at the beginning of the year that we’d make a first announcement at All Things Open, kickstarting a public conversation. We’ve delivered, thanks to contributions of many experts and sponsors. But it’s only the starting point. There is a lot more to do.

After two community reviews in person and a first pass at online comments, we released a new draft version 0.0.3.

The base of the conversation is a preamble to explain “why Open Source AI,” followed by the beginning of a formal definition: the document will get longer. Open Source experts will recognize the heavy borrowing from the free software definition and the structure of the GNU Manifesto: it’s not a mistake. We believe that the consensus on a Definition of Open Source AI will emerge after the stakeholders will have made a similar journey that led to the Open Source Definition. The OSD is basically a checklist that appeared after decades of free software development, when developers, users, business leaders, lawyers and policymakers had time to learn what freedom meant in the context of software. We don’t have decades to wait for AI but we can accelerate by building on top of what many of us already know and reach out to diverse communities to join the conversation.

That’s what the OSI is doing with these Deep Dive: AI cycles: inviting multiple stakeholders to learn and share their knowledge as we all make progress together towards a common understanding of AI systems.

What’s in draft v.0.0.3

The four freedoms have received a bit of wordsmithing for consistency and clarity, making them shorter compared to previous drafts. I removed the words “without any limitation” from the Use and Share principles as recommended by Chestek, and because a question about copyleft also came up at the workshop in Monterey.

The current version reflects the consensus of the suggestions emerged from the workshops in Raleigh and Monterey, and the online comments to v.0.0.2.

In addition to those changes, I did some cleanup of the word soup, removing all instances of the most loaded concepts like trustworthy, reliable, fair, etc. from the preamble: they only appear in the “Out of scope” section.

Enjoy and comment on draft 0.0.3.  

Known issues and next steps

There is no consensus on what definition of AI system to use. The draft 0.0.3 still uses the definition introduced by OECD in 2019  for lack of a better option. We’ll continue the conversation.

We have two more in-person workshops scheduled before the end of the year: Nov 15 at the DPGA annual summit in Addis Ababa; and Dec 12-13 at the Linux Foundation AI.Dev conference in San Jose. These were not planned at the beginning of the year when we announced the 2023 series but they’re extremely important to reach African tech leaders and policy makers and AI developers. 

At this point we want to close DDAI 2023 thanking the sponsors Google, Amazon, GitHub, OSS Capital, GitLab, Weaviate and Sourcegraph; the Linux Foundation for their travel grants; and individual donors, because we couldn’t have hosted the webinar series and run three in-person meetings without them.

We’re working on a plan for 2024 that includes expanding our reach to other communities with an eye on reaching consensus on a 1.0 release of the Open Source AI Definition in the quickest amount of time.

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Categories: FLOSS Research

Nerdearla reflects on openness and inclusivity

Wed, 2023-10-25 14:57

Last month, OSI affiliate sysarmy organized the 10th edition of Nerdearla, one of the largest Open Source conferences in Latin America, bringing together a community of 10,000+ participants in Buenos Aires and 25,000+ online. Nerdearla is 100% free for attendees both online and in-person, relying solely on the companies that sponsor the event.

Keynote speakers included Megan Smith, former U.S. CTO and assistant to the President; Jon “maddog” Hall, board chair for the Linux Professional Institute; and Douglas Crockford, author of the data format JSON (JavaScript Object Notation).

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) was kindly invited to present the “25 years of Open Source.” As community manager at the OSI, I gave an overview of the rich and interconnected history of both the Free Software and Open Source movements, and later looked towards the future to reimagine a new world where openness and collaboration prevail. In my presentation I explored the challenges and opportunities ahead, including Open Source’s key role in fostering collaboration and innovation in emerging areas such as AI/ML.

One of the high points of the conference was the keynote from Megan Smith: “Accelerating solution making through inclusion.” Megan shared her vision for a more productive, innovative, multi-disciplinary and positively-impactful technology community that accomplishes this mission through including and building for all of humanity. Openness and inclusion were a big focus of her presentation, where she highlighted how Open Source, open collaboration, open innovation, open education and open government can help bring different people and perspectives together.

Sysarmy organized several social and inclusive activities as part of Nerdearla. The event adopted a hybrid approach, where participants who could not attend in person were able to watch the presentations and interact with others online. Kids were also invited to be part of the conference by participating in activities like the Roboteam experience. 

While technology was the main focus of the event, adjacent topics like mathematics and astronomy were also incorporated into the program, including a “night at the planetarium.” Finally, there was also a special “women in technology” social event where both new and experienced participants could share their experiences with other colleagues.

In my opinion, Nerdearla is one of the best conferences in the world with a vibrant community. The event relies solely on sponsors and tickets are 100% free for attendees, who gain the opportunity to learn from top class speakers. Please visit:

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Categories: FLOSS Research

The State of Open Source Survey is underway!

Tue, 2023-10-10 17:00

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is collaborating with OpenLogic by Perforce for the third year on the State of Open Source Survey, this year also joined by the Eclipse Foundation.The survey, which runs through November 10th, examines the day-to-day use and management of Open Source software, including technology trends, challenges and Open Source maturity, with the resulting data used as the basis for the 2024 State of Open Source Report.

The OSI is committed to partnering with our sponsors such as OpenLogic by Perforce and the Eclipse Foundation, to advance awareness and defend the Open Source definition through projects such as this. The data collected in this survey shines a light on the importance of tracking the evolution of Open Source licenses, especially at a time when those licenses are changing from OSI-approved to proprietary. 

The State of Open Source Survey is vendor-neutral, polling users of and contributors to Open Source software. The resulting report will deliver invaluable insights into the needs, opinions and challenges of organizations using today’s foremost Open Source technologies. 

The OSI is excited to be a part of this collaborative effort. Interested users of Open Source are encouraged to participate in the 2024 State of Open Source Survey.

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Categories: FLOSS Research

A personal letter from Catharina Maracke, Chair of the Open Source Initiative

Fri, 2023-10-06 07:45

Dear OSI Community,

I trust this message finds you well. It is with mixed emotions that I announce my decision to step down from my role as Chair of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). This transition has not been an easy one, but I believe it is the right step for both the organization and myself at this juncture given the time commitment required in this voluntary position.

Over the months and years, serving as Chair of the OSI has been an incredible privilege and a deeply rewarding experience. I have had the honor of working alongside some of the brightest minds in the Open Source community, advocating for Open Source principles, and helping to shape the future of Open Source software. And the past two years have been particularly exciting for OSI: With Stefano Maffulli taking full responsibility for operational implementation as our Executive Director, we have achieved a great deal to work more closely with our stakeholders and like-minded organizations to increase visibility of the Open Source community in the world. 

In addition to our Deep Dive AI project, we have launched the Open Policy Alliance, a network of non-profit projects and initiatives to support information and education in the public policy discussions related to Open Source software, content, research, and education. We have also revised and clarified our license review process – and launched a new working group to review and ensure consistency among the list of already approved OSI licenses.

During the March 2023 election process, I promised to focus primarily on visibility and operational stability for the organization. I will keep my promise but not in the position as Chair of the OSI. While I will continue to serve on the board, I am convinced that the organization will benefit from rotation and regular changes in leadership as long as the overall mission and operational stability is ensured. Both are clearly given when I hand over the Chair position to my long-term friend and mentor Carlo Piana, who will take over as the Chair of the OSI starting October 9th 2023. The officers Aeva Black, Thierry Carrez, and Tracy Hinds will continue their roles to ensure a smooth transition.

I want to use this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you for your support, dedication, and collaboration over the years. The open source community is built on the values of transparency, collaboration, and inclusivity, and I am confident that these principles will continue to guide OSI in the future.

And a very special word of thanks to Carlo – I couldn’t be more excited for the OSI to continue to grow and flourish under his leadership.

Warm regards,


Outgoing Chair, Open Source Initiative

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Categories: FLOSS Research

Criteria review begins by License Consistency Working Group to update licenses to current standards

Tue, 2023-10-03 11:00

Over the 25 years of OSI operation, our understanding of what makes an Open Source license successful, and what things cause problems, has evolved considerably. Ideas that were interesting experiments in 2002 have been shown not to work, and provisions like patent grants have been shown to be necessary. We’ve also learned the value of non-proliferation.

This means that it’s time for the board to review OSI’s library of licenses against current standards of what meets the Open Source Definition (OSD), as well as what’s legally valid licensing language. The board has delegated this to the newly formed License Consistency Working Group (LCWG), consisting of six OSI community members who have long standing involvement in license review. The LCWG, which includes both lawyers and developers from the US and Europe, started work in August.

Since this is maintenance twenty years in the making, the new committee is proceeding with deliberation over at least a year.  Work is happening in three phases: criteria, policy and review.  Currently the LCWG is in the Criteria phase. Members are reviewing the OSI’s library of licenses based partly on notes taken by the legal contractor who collated and consolidated license approval records earlier this year. Based on this review, the committee will be able to find if we have problems in older licenses, and what kinds of problems we have. From there, they will be able to move on to making recommendations about how these problems are to be resolved.

We emphasize that, while de-listing a license due to critical problems is a possibility, the committee expects most of its work to center around far less drastic resolutions. For example, some licenses have more recent versions, and others have differences in text between the OSI listing and the document used by the project. In most cases, we expect any changes to be a matter of cleanup rather than removal. Should any license need to be de-listed, the OSI will take care to assess the impact on any users of that license.

The consistency review is a one-time effort at the direction of the board, and will not be an ongoing license grievance process.

If you have questions or feedback for the LCWG, please reach out to board members Josh Berkus and Carlo Piana.

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Categories: FLOSS Research

Three highlights from Open Source Summit Europe 2023

Thu, 2023-09-28 13:00

The Open Source Summit Europe is a conference organized by the Linux Foundation with the goal of bringing together Open Source developers, technologists and community leaders to collaborate, share information, solve problems and gain knowledge. Last week, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) was present at this event, driving three key efforts: 1) the Open Source AI discussion; 2) the launch of; and 3) the future of ClearlyDefined.

The Open Source AI discussion

Open Source AI has been a hot topic since the beginning of the year, but there’s no clear definition of what’s actually “Open Source AI”. To address this question, the OSI has created an open process gathering opinions and comments from individual developers, lawyers, researchers, non-profit organizations, companies and government officials developing and using AI systems. As part of this open process, the OSI is organizing a series of events, both online and in-person. Having a presence at the Open Source Summit Europe was important to gather the perspectives from different stakeholders, particularly from the European community.

Our first activity was at the LLM Avalanche Bilbao event that happened prior to the main conference. This event was a follow-up from the very successful LLM Avalanche San Francisco that took place in the Bay area in June. The OSI presented an overview of the recent discussions and got some important feedback from the audience, among which a suggestion for the OSI to participate in other events tailored for AI researchers and scientists.

As part of the keynotes at the main conference, “Open Source AI” was a big focus, with many exciting announcements from the Linux Foundation, including the launch of the Generative AI Commons and the Unified Acceleration Foundation. Nithya Ruff, head of the AWS Open Source Programme Office (OSPO), also kindly highlighted the work from the OSI in this space at her keynote.

The launch of

The OSI officially announced the launch of at the Open Source Summit Bilbao. With the decision from Red Hat to halt the publication of new articles at, the community of authors that have gathered around this site for the past 12 years were at risk of disappearing. The OSI stepped in to provide this community with a neutral home where they can continue to share knowledge and engage with other members.

At the OSI’s booth, postcards from were being distributed to attendees so they could be shared with friends. The launch was well received and new articles are expected to be published in the coming weeks. welcomes new contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

The future of ClearlyDefined

Finally, the OSI also had important discussions about the future of ClearlyDefined, which aims to create a global database of licensing metadata for every Open Source software component ever published. Nick Vidal, community manager of ClearlyDefined, held productive conversations with Justin Colannino, OSI board member and assistant general counsel at Microsoft, and Thomas Steenbergen, co-founder of the ClearlyDefined and OSS Review Toolkit (ORT) projects.

ClearlyDefined is currently undergoing a process of adopting a more open governance model, where different stakeholders can have a say in the direction of the project. This process started at the first ORT Community Day held in Berlin about 6 months ago. Since then, new members have shown interest in being more involved with the ClearlyDefined community, in particular GitHub, who has recently added 17.5 million package licenses to their database. The hope is that by the end of the year a more open governance model will be established and soon after a new release of ClearlyDefined will be released with input from the community. 


OSI’s participation at the Open Source Summit Europe was very important. The OSI was able to gather valuable feedback from the community around three efforts currently underway and further straighten the partnership with the Linux Foundation.

If you are interested in learning more about all of OSI’s programs, please check our website and get involved. The OSI is currently hosting a webinar series as part of the “Deep Dive: Defining Open Source AI”. In October, the OSI will host a special track at All Things Open including five sessions covering Open Source licenses, policy, security and a double session to draft a definition for “Open Source AI”.

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Categories: FLOSS Research

How the OSI checks if new licenses comply with the Open Source Definition

Tue, 2023-09-26 13:00

Earlier this month, we announced completion of the project to review the list of Approved Licenses. The Open Source community needs a resource to confidently and easily identify OSI-approved licenses, and now we have it. This approval registry offers a comprehensive and authoritative listing of all licenses so organizations know that the license they choose for their project allows their software to be freely used, modified, shared and monetized in compliance with the Open Source Definition.

But how do we check the compliance of new licenses with the Open Source Definition? The License Review Working Group was formed to examine ways to improve the license review process, with the stated purpose of evaluating or reevaluating:

  • the criteria for approving licenses, potentially setting different standards for licenses in use versus new licenses
  • the process for considering licenses for approval, including whether the OSI should itself nominate licenses for approval
  • the current categories for licenses, including how they are used and their usefulness
  • whether there should be a process for decertifying licenses, and what the process and standards would be for the process

(Originally, the group was scoped to examine the process of delisting licenses, but it delegated this topic to a separate working group.) 

One important output of the License Review Working Group was defining the difference between a legacy license and a new license. A legacy license is now defined as one that has been in widespread use for at least five years by a number of different unaffiliated entities. New licenses are, by definition, all other licenses. 

The updated license review process is now live and below are the most important changes.

License submission process

The group took on the license submission process, focusing on the difficulty in navigating the review process. The role of the license-review email list and its relationship to OSI is clarified with more explanation on the decision making process, in particular the role of the license-review list participants.

The new submission process clarifies the difference in process between new licenses and all licenses. For all licenses, the submission process requires that the license submitter affirmatively state that the license complies with the Open Source Definition, including specifically affirming it meets OSD 3, 5, 6 and 9 (the points that historically have been more problematic). They must identify what projects are already using the license, if any, and ask for the identity of the license steward, if known. The OSI will try to get in touch with the license steward if different from the license submitter. Submitters must provide any additional information believed to be helpful for license review, as well as a unique name for the license (preferably including the version number) and an SPDX identifier if one already exists. Finally, all license submitters must identify any proposed tags for the license.

For new licenses, the license submitter will also be asked to describe what gap is not filled by currently existing licenses that the new license will fill. Specifically, they must compare it with the most similar OSI-approved license(s). They must describe any legal review the license has been through, including whether it was drafted by a lawyer, and provide examples of others’ potential use of the license to demonstrate that it is not a license that is uniquely usable only by the license submitter.

For both categories (new licenses and all licenses), approval of a similar license in the past does not bind the OSI to approval of a newly submitted license.

Approval standards

The License Review Working Group also developed approval standards for new and legacy licenses and clarified that the current categorization system of popular licenses and all approved licenses is no longer needed. Rather than continuing the current categorization of licenses, the OSI plans to adopt a tagging system for licenses. These tags will aid third parties in identifying licenses suitable for their use case.

In order to continue the success of the anti-proliferation work, the License Review Working Group proposed three categories of licenses: Rejected, Approved, and Preferred. 

In short, a great deal of time and effort went into the careful examination of many issues, and the support of and commentary from the community were invaluable in reaching a set of recommendations that were approved by the board. If you’re interested in the deliberations and details, you can read more at the License Review Working Group wiki.

Next steps

We’re planning to further improve for the license review process by introducing new tools to discuss the text of the licenses. Recognizing that holding conversations over email is uncomfortable for all actors, we’re designing a better system. Stay tuned for more changes.

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Categories: FLOSS Research Community Finds New Life With the Open Source Initiative

Tue, 2023-09-19 18:00

Open Source enthusiasts have grown to rely on unbiased, community-led content. Writers and editors of the project formerly known as are being invited to join, a domain hosted by the Open Source Initiative.

Bilbao, Spain – September 18, 2023 – Today, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) has become the new home for the former community. Writers and editors formerly contributing to are being invited to continue their work under the OSI umbrella, posting content at a domain owned by the OSI:

The project had become a community favorite for news, information, opinion and how-tos surrounding the key issues in Open Source software, publishing over 10,000 articles. Over the course of 12 years, Open Source contributors advocated for the creation, adoption and sharing of all things Open Source. As a 501(c)(3) organization and the steward of the Open Source Definition, OSI will oversee as a not-for-profit, technology-neutral resource for the Open Source community to share knowledge, perspectives and advocacy in support of a healthy Open Source ecosystem. is launching in response to the halt of operations by supervising entity Red Hat, which supports the move. This includes facilitating the republishing of selected, previously published material from for the archives of with the project’s technical editor Seth Kenlon continuing to play an advisory and supporting role.

Value of to the Community is a community project. A group has been established to host community discussions about the development of Interested parties are encouraged to participate. Automattic, the company behind, is kindly assisting the project with website design support.

The former authors at are in the process of repurposing their content and republishing selected articles on Content published on will remain in the control of the author under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License. 

Underwriting Opportunities

Operational support for will come from the OSI, which is working to establish underwriting opportunities to help support this work. Those interested in supporting this initiative can contact the OSI.

“Continuing the work of the writers is in perfect alignment with our mission,” said Stefano Maffulli, executive director of the Open Source Initiative. “The content shared there supports healthy dialog and informed education on Open Source software issues and topics. We will strive to assure that the editorial standards and code of conduct at will reflect those of, making the new offering a place where all community authors and editors are able to offer new ideas and foster engagement that helps create a positive future for Open Source software.”

“Open Source is about people as much as, if not more than, it is about software. For 12 years, published over 10,000 articles by more than 2,000 different authors. We are all excited to help the Open Source Initiative promote and safeguard the essential freedoms of Open Source software and hardware, and just as importantly, the vitality of the Open Source community,” said Seth Kenlon, former technical editor at

“As the editorial manager for many years, our team put our heart and soul into growing into a truth-telling and real-life-story sharing platform for the Open Source community,” said Jen Wike Huger, former editorial manager. “It’s only right that another caretaker in the industry steps up and fills the gap. The lives and stories of developers from all over the world continue, and so we should continue to share.” 

About the Open Source Initiative

Founded in 1998, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation with global scope formed to educate about and advocate for the benefits of Open Source and to build bridges among different constituencies in the Open Source community. It is the steward of the Open Source Definition, setting the foundation for the global Open Source ecosystem. Join and support the OSI mission today at

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Categories: FLOSS Research

To trust AI, it must be open and transparent. Period.

Thu, 2023-09-14 11:00

By Heather Meeker, OSS Capital

Machine learning has been around for a long time. But in late 2022, recent advancements in deep learning and large language models started to change the game and come into the public eye. And people started thinking, “We love Open Source software, so, let’s have Open Source AI, too.” 

But what is Open Source AI? And the answer is: we don’t know yet. 

Machine learning models are not software. Software is written by humans, like me. Machine learning models are trained; they learn on their own automatically, based on the input data provided by humans. When programmers want to fix a computer program, they know what they need: the source code. But if you want to fix a model, you need a lot more: software to train it, data to train it, a plan for training it, and so forth. It is much more complex. And reproducing it exactly ranges from difficult to nearly impossible.

The Open Source Definition, which was made for software, is now in its third decade, and has been a stunning success. There are standard Open Source licenses that everyone uses. Access to source code is a living, working concept that people use every day. But when we try to apply Open Source concepts to AI, we need to first go back to principles.

For something to be “Open Source” it needs to have one overarching quality:  transparency. What if an AI is screening you for a job, or for a medical treatment, or deciding a prison sentence? You want to know how it works. But deep learning models right now are a black box. If you look at the output of a model, it’s impossible to tell how or why the model came up with that output. All you can do is look at the inputs to see if its training was correct. And that’s not nearly as straightforward as looking at source code. 

AI has the potential to greatly benefit our world. Now is the first time in history we’ve had the information and technology to tackle our biggest problems, like climate change, poverty and war. Some people are saying AI will destroy the world, but I think it contributes to the hope of saving the world. 

But first, we need to trust it. And to trust it, it needs to be open and transparent.

As a consumer you should demand that the AI you use is open. As a developer, you should know what rights you have to study and improve AI. As a voter, you should have the right to demand that AI used by the government is open and transparent. 

Without transparency, AI is doomed. AI is potentially so powerful and capable that people are already frightened of it. Without transparency, AI risks going the way of crypto–a technology with great potential that gets shut down by distrust. I hope that we will figure out how to guarantee transparency before that happens, because the problems AI can help us solve are urgent, and I believe we can solve them if we work together. 


OSI has gathered a group of leaders who will be presenting ideas around the topic of AI and Open Source in our upcoming Deep Dive: Defining Open Source AI Webinar Series. Registration is free and allows you to attend and ask questions at any or all of the sessions taking place between September 26 and October 12, 2023. REGISTER HERE today!

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Categories: FLOSS Research

Open Source Initiative Hosts 2nd Deep Dive AI Event, Aims to Define ‘Open Source’ for AI

Mon, 2023-09-11 14:56

The Open Source Definition isn’t directly applicable to AI systems, so global experts will gather to establish shared principles to protect the values of Open Source during this period of hyper growth in AI technology.

SAN FRANCISCO – September 11, 2023 Open Source Initiative (OSI), the non-profit corporation that educates about and advocates for the importance of non-proprietary software, is hosting its 2nd Deep Dive: AI event, this one focused on Defining Open Source AI. The goal is to work toward establishing a clear and defendable definition of “Open Source AI.” OSI is bringing together global experts to establish a shared set of principles that can recreate a permissionless, pragmatic and simplified collaboration for AI practitioners, similar to what the Open Source Definition has done.

OSI is the steward of the Open Source Definition, which serves as the foundation of the modern software ecosystem, outlining the distribution terms of Open Source software. OSI also maintains a list of OSI Approved Licenses that have become a nexus of trust around which developers, users, corporations and governments can organize Open Source cooperation.

“It’s time to define what ‘open’ means in AI before it is defined by accident,” said Stefano Maffulli, executive director of OSI. “This milestone project is essential right now. Policymakers, re-users and modifiers are confused, and developers aren’t clear on data sharing and transparency. A permission structure is needed to help fight open washing.”

Representatives from Mozilla Foundation, Creative Commons, Wikimedia Foundation, Internet Archive, Linux Foundation Europe, OSS Capital and OSI board members met on June 21, 2023 in San Francisco to set parameters for the first working document of a “Definition of AI systems” that reflect Open Source values. Read the notes of the meeting.

Supporting Quotes

“It’s critical to develop shared definitions about what it means to contribute to the commons, including through open source,”  said Catherine Stihler, CEO of Creative Commons. “The participatory process organized by the OSI is an important way to find the common values shared by the widest variety of organizations and people around the world.”

“The next decade of open infrastructure will be built hand in hand with AI,” said Mark Collier, COO of the OpenInfra Foundation. “The OpenInfra Foundation and the community, engaged with its projects—including OpenStack, Kata Containers, and StarlingX—is focused on defining how AI will play its role. We’re excited to participate in OSI’s process to find a common baseline and definition that all of us can rely on to further the values of ‘open’ to the AI field, as soon as possible.”

A diverse range of organizations support the OSI’s open definition process for AI. Most recently, Google has increased its financial commitments to support this urgent initiative. Timothy Jordan, Director of Open Source and Developer Relations at Google, stated “Google is excited to continue our support of the Open Source Initiative and, more broadly, of open source developers. We look forward to the open collaboration involved in drafting the Definition of Open Source AI and hope it will help accelerate innovation in this space.” We are excited to have Google Open Source on board.

Other organizations, like GitHub, Amazon, OSS Capital, GitLab, Weaviate and Sourcegraph believe in this effort as well and are supporting the process with their generous donations. OSI also welcomes individual donations.

“Deep Dive: Defining Open Source AI” Webinar Speakers & Schedule

OSI called upon the Open Source community to contribute to the conversations and collective thinking. OSI opened a call for presentations to be given in a Deep Dive webinar series focused on identifying the foundational principles of Open AI. These speakers have been selected to present precise problem areas in AI and clear suggestions for solutions: 

  • Arielle Bennett – The Alan Turing Institute
  • Thierry Carrez – OpenInfra Foundation
  • Danish Contractor – RAIL
  • Jennifer Ding – The Alan Turing Institute
  • Mark Dingemanse – Radboud University
  • Justin Dorfman – Sourcegraph
  • Ivo Emanuilov – University of Sofia
  • Denny George – Tattle Civic Tech
  • Mary Hardy – Microsoft
  • Katharina Koerner – Tech Diplomacy Network
  • Andreas Liesenfeld – Radboud University
  • Alianda Lopez – Radboud University
  • Monica Lopez – Holistic AI
  • Samantha Mandell – Sourcegraph
  • Siddharth Manohar – Data Governance Consultant
  • Daniel McDuff – RAIL
  • Michael Meehan – Diveplane
  • Mike Nolan – Open@RIT
  • Tarunima Prabhakar – Tattle Civic Tech
  • Rohan Singh Rajput – Headspace
  • McCoy Smith – Lex Pan Law
  • Davanum Srinivas – AWS
  • Anne Steele – The Alan Turing Institute
  • Dimitris Stripelis – NevronAI
  • Jutta Suksi – VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
  • Alek Tarkowski – Open Future Foundation
  • Luis Villa – Tidelift & Creative Commons
  • Kirstie Whitaker – The Alan Turing Institute
  • Tammy Zhu – Sourcegraph

Webinars will be held Tuesday through Thursday between September 26 and October 12 (daily schedule). Each session will include a live Q&A with attendees. Registration is free, and single registration gains you access to all of the webinars in the series. The webinars will culminate in the community panels and working sessions at All Things Open conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, from October 15-17.

Comment on the Draft of the “Open Source AI Definition”

A release candidate of the Open Source AI Definition will be available for public discussion at All Things Open, on October 17. Interested parties can review the full schedule of the global drafting and review process. 


The “OSI Deep Dive: Defining Open Source AI” event is made possible by the support of these sponsors: 

Others interested in offering support can contact OSI at

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Categories: FLOSS Research

The Approved Open Source Licenses never looked better

Thu, 2023-09-07 14:00

A license-review project has been underway with the goal of creating a systematic and well-ordered database of all the licenses that have been submitted to OSI for approval since the time of the organization’s founding. Giulia Dellanoce was brought on as an intern to complete this Approval Registry project, and we’re very thankful for her work in completing this mission.

The OSI Approved Licenses database is now available on the OSI website!

The Open Source community needs a resource to confidently and easily identify licenses that have gained OSI approval, and now they have it. This Approval Registry offers a comprehensive and authoritative listing of all licenses so organizations know that the license they choose for their project allows their software to be freely used, modified, shared and monetized in compliance with the Open Source Definition.

The building of the Approval Registry required the review of decades worth of material, including:

  • Review of the public license review mailing lists from 2008 – 2023
  • Review of the license discuss mailing lists from 1999 – 2007
  • Review of the public board meeting minutes 2005 – 2023 

The license pages have been updated to include the status of each license, whether it has been approved, withdrawn, voluntarily retired or rejected by the board. The metadata of each license has also been updated with links to relevant documentation. 

More valuable licensing information to come

There are plans for future expansion of this project, as the work is never done. Greater details about licenses will continue to be added. As licenses move through the process of being considered for OSI approval, a current status will be listed in the database. Also, OSI has assembled a listing of non-approved licenses for easy searching that will be located on the website at a future date. 

Another future expansion is the development of an API service that can answer questions like “is this license approved?” There is already a community-contributed API service but it’s not carefully maintained to match the actual list. If you have uses for consuming the database of Approved Licenses via API please get in touch.

If you think we’ve missed something, a license page looks wrong or you have access to email board archives from the past, please let us know. File a ticket or contact us.

Thank you to Giulia for this important work, and to Slim.AI for the donation to OSI that supported this project so they and other companies can have a trustable, centralized list of Open Source Approved License®.

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Categories: FLOSS Research

Diverse Open Source uses highlight need for precision in Cyber Resilience Act

Tue, 2023-09-05 02:30

As the European Cyber Resilience Act (CRA) is entering into the final legislative phase, it still has some needs arising from framing by the Commission or Parliament that result in breakage no matter how issues within its scope are “fixed”. 

Here’s a short list to help the co-legislators understand the engagement from the Open Source community.

  • OSI and the experts with whom they engage are not trying to get all of Open Source out of scope as maximalist lobbyists do for other aspects of technology. An exclusion from the regulation for Open Source software per se would open a significant loophole for openwashing. But the development of Open Source software in the open needs to be excluded from scope just as the development of software in private is. Our goal in engaging is just to prevent unintentional breakage while largely embracing the new regulation.
  • There is no one way to use Open Source. Many of the policymakers we’ve spoken to think of Open Source components in supply chains under the care of foundations like the Eclipse Foundation that are used essentially as-is. But the freedoms of Open Source are also used for stack building, consumer tools, enabling research, hobbyist tinkering, as the basis for European small businesses like XWiki, Open-Xchange, Abilian, and more. All these many other uses exist and are broken differently by the CRA. Software is primarily a cultural artifact and that aspect must be prioritized.
  • There is no single Open Source business model. People make money from Open Source (by charging for it, running it as a service and supporting it) and with Open Source (by simplifying their businesses and reducing costs); they shape markets via Open Source by enabling adjacent businesses, commoditising competitors without then monetising their customers, and more – there are a significant number of business models made possible by software freedom. So any attempt to identify commerciality is sure to be model-specific and consequently have unintended consequences for other models.
  • Even larger foundations like Linux Foundation do not actually employ the sort of staff who ensure code compliance Open Source is conceptually disjoint from proprietary software. To comply with the CRA – if they find themselves in-scope – they will need them to hire a whole new operating unit. To them, the burden of compliance is not a cost of development funded by revenue as it would be for a manufactured physical good where staffing exists and just needs adapting.

OSI still recommends the Cyber Resilience Act should exclude all activities prior to commercial deployment of software and clearly ensure that responsibility for CE marks does not rest with any actor who is not a direct commercial beneficiary of deployment.

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Categories: FLOSS Research

Driving the global conversation about “Open Source AI”

Thu, 2023-08-31 13:30

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) continues the work of exploring complexities surrounding the development and use of artificial intelligence in Deep Dive: AI – Defining Open Source AI, with the goal of collaboratively establishing a clear and defensible definition of “Open Source AI.” OSI is bringing together global experts to establish a shared set of principles that can recreate a permissionless, pragmatic and simplified collaboration for AI practitioners, similar to what the Open Source Definition has done.

Building community momentum and support

We’ve gathered a significant amount of support from groups all over the world. Most recently, Google has increased its financial commitments to support this urgent initiative. Timothy Jordan, Director of Open Source and Developer Relations at Google, stated “Google is excited to continue our support of the Open Source Initiative and, more broadly, of open source developers. We look forward to the open collaboration involved in drafting the Definition of Open Source AI and hope it will help accelerate innovation in this space.” 

For Catherine Stihler, executive director of Creative Commons “It’s critical to develop shared definitions about what it means to contribute to the commons, including through open source. The participatory process organized by the OSI is an important way to find the common values shared by the widest variety of organizations and people around the world.” 

While Mark Collier, COO, OpenInfra Foundation said that “The next decade of open infrastructure will be built hand-in-hand with AI. The OpenInfra Foundation and the community engaged with its projects, including OpenStack, Kata Containers, and StarlingX, is focused on defining how AI will play its role. We’re excited to participate in OSI’s process to find—as soon as possible—a common baseline and definition that all of us can rely on to further the values of ‘open’ to the AI field.”  

Other organizations, like GitHub, Amazon, OSS Capital, Weaviate and Sourcegraph also believe in this effort and are supporting the process with generous donations. OSI also welcomes individual donations.

“Deep Dive: Defining Open Source AI” webinars

After gathering a group of people from Mozilla Foundation, Creative Commons, Wikimedia Foundation, Internet Archive, Linux Foundation Europe, OSS Capital, and the OSI board in June 2023 in San Francisco, OSI is kicking off our webinar series to hear from more experts.

The presentations series identifies foundational principles of “Open” in the context of AI and will contribute to the conversations and collective thinking. The topics were selected for their focus on precise problem areas in AI and offer clear suggestions for solutions based on their expertise in many areas. 

Webinars will be held Tuesday through Thursday between September 26 and October 12 (daily schedule coming soon). Each session will include a live Q&A with attendees. Registration is free and single registration gains you access to all webinars in the series. 

Comment on the Draft of the “Open Source AI Definition”
A draft of the Open Source AI Definition will be available for public discussion at All Things Open, on October 17. Interested parties can review the full schedule of the global drafting and review process.

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Categories: FLOSS Research

COSCUP Unveiled

Tue, 2023-08-22 14:20

(Thanks to Paloma Oliveira for this contribution!)

Reflecting on how to improve our open communities

Navigating uncharted waters often leads to intriguing discoveries. Imagine immersing yourself in a realm that commemorates a quarter-century of Open Source accomplishment. Invited by Open Source Initiative (OSI) to reflect upon the 25 years of Open Source at COSCUP, a conference in Taiwan that focuses on coders, users and promoters of Open Source, I threw myself into these waters by proposing a review of history that is not unique around the globe, taking my perspective from South America and Europe to Asia, where I had never before ventured. 

You can read a full transcript of my talk here and check my critical take on the topic. After all, to review is to be able to identify where we failed and to be able to proceed from there.

More than offering something, I return with baggage full of new perspectives that made me renew my vision about the importance of Open Source in global and local contexts. COSCUP is a distinguished conference, drawing together Open Source enthusiasts mostly from around Asia: Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and many others were heavily present. In this piece, we’ll embark on a thoughtful exploration of COSCUP’s defining characteristics, offering a nuanced perspective that distinguishes it in the bustling landscape of technology events.

So, what makes COSCUP a great conference?

From and to the communities

Spread across two days, the conference adopts a unique structure, with sessions categorized under different tracks, each managed by dedicated communities. This approach empowers participants to navigate subjects aligned with their interests, fostering connections with kindred spirits. The emphasis on community-led curation breathes fresh air into the conventional conference model. You can find the topics/ communities here

Image from the author from the hallway signage informing of rooms and content curated by communities 

A melting pot of global and local voices

Navigating through COSCUP’s conference offerings went beyond language preferences in English or Chinese. In reality, it was a journey through a tapestry of diverse voices, akin to a symphony of polyphonies. This allowed for an intriguing blend of both global and local perspectives. 

While English has emerged as the dominant language in the technology landscape, serving as a common thread for communication, relying solely on English excludes those without fluency. This limitation bears various consequences; fluently expressing and understanding nuances in a language beyond one’s mother tongue is a privilege. Creating spaces for regional languages broadens participation and welcomes those who are still learning or aiming to navigate the intricate world of Open Source. This inclusion empowers individuals to express their thoughts across a broad spectrum, fostering the exploration of local solutions.

An illustration of the need for such inclusivity can be found in conversations with individuals like Naru from the SODA Foundation who asked us to consider the challenge of non-alphabetic writing systems. Naru highlighted the case of LibreOffice, which has a scarcity of developers fluent in logographic languages. This linguistic gap causes code disruptions, as changes from Europe and America often disregard alternative writing systems. How can this issue be tackled without understanding the unique requirements of such languages? This showcases the necessity for more developers who are versed in these languages to contribute actively and have a say in decisions. Hence, it becomes evident that influential conferences like COSCUP should maintain programs that encompass a broad spectrum, catering to both global connections and local preservation of diverse cultures.

In the conference schedule you can find communities from Hong Kong, a special Japan track and several talks about local dialect preservation, such as the talk: “How can we utilize Wikidata to protect Puyuma, an endangered language?

Shining a spotlight on open design

Organized by Women Techmakers Taiwan and curated by catcatcatcat, this track directed attention to the intersection of development and design, a facet that often remains overlooked in the Open Source landscape. 

Unlike traditional tech conferences, where technical aspects often take precedence, the curated workshops and talks placed the spotlight on design’s pivotal role in enhancing usability. This spotlight reflects a broader understanding that technology should seamlessly align with users’ needs. The renewed focus on open design casts light on a pivotal aspect that influences the adoption and longevity of Open Source solutions.

While I’ve observed a growing trend of incorporating this topic into conferences like FOSS-Backstage and AllThingsOpen, it often remains on the periphery. However, at COSCUP, the dedicated room hosted a series of workshops and talks that delved beyond the technology driving creations. The emphasis extended to the synergy between developers and designers, with a paramount focus on the intrinsic purpose of technology – to serve users.

Historically, Open Source has leaned heavily towards lauding the technical aspects of its creations, an inclination that spawns a cascade of challenges. From an inclusion standpoint, this often hampers opportunities for contributions from diverse perspectives, particularly when these technologies directly influence various demographics.

Image taken from Eriol Fox & Abhishek Sharma workshop Becoming better contributors to social impact

From a sustainability perspective, technologies devoid of usability contribute to the generation of excessive waste. Although digital, the hidden mound of discarded components remains invisible. If we could visualize it, the space consumed by discarded hardware, the energy expended by servers, electrical consumption, data usage, and more would likely span vast expanses. Surprisingly, cloud storage – in existence for over a decade – has become more polluting than the aviation industry. Amidst the digital revolution’s accelerated production of software and the cost-effective proliferation of hardware and software, minimal thought has been spared for the unsustainability of this excessive production. Moreover, the repercussions of this surplus on the physical world remain woefully unaddressed.

From both a software and product perspective, technology devoid of usability and tangible user value fails to find traction within communities or markets. The pursuit of acceleration often overlooks a pivotal question: Why and for whom are we creating this technology? While development timelines might differ from research periods, harmony between these phases ensures the birth of superior and more sustainable creations.

In essence, the COSCUP conference didn’t just highlight open design’s significance, it underscored the imperative need to integrate user-centric perspectives into Open Source innovation. This paradigm shift extends beyond code, advocating for a holistic approach that recognizes the interplay of technology, design and its real-world implications.

Prioritizing well-being: nurturing mental health and balance

For a while now, both Europe and America have been awash with articles and talks addressing mental health issues, burnout and the impostor syndrome. A growing chorus stresses the urgency of spotlighting these challenges, emphasizing individual care and self-preservation. 

Conferences can often become grueling endeavors. The short timeframes that cram copious amounts of information, combined with the jet lag and the effort of navigating languages that aren’t always native, transform conference participation into a marathon. While undeniably exciting, it’s essential to recognize that conferences also constitute a form of work, especially in the context of Open Source, which largely resides within the professional sphere.

Seldom do conferences provide havens for respite, such as quiet rooms (which are rare), but other great conferences like PyCon PyData Berlin and KubeCon do offer the space. This initiative marked a commendable effort towards acknowledging the attendees’ well-being. However, COSCUP took this commitment a step further. By constraining conference hours from 8:50 AM to 5:00 PM, the organizers ensured that attendees’ time, mirroring regular working hours, remained within manageable limits. This pragmatic approach mitigated the risk of exhaustion, a common side effect of conferences.

In addition, conversations with Zoei, who boasts a background in psychology and is a key contributor to the well-being initiatives at COSCUP, provided valuable insights. She emphasized the transition from rhetoric to action. This commitment was tangibly manifested in the Healing Market, offering a range of amenities – from massage room to meditation sessions and even wine yoga – all designed to offer attendees much-needed moments of solace during the conference days.

Image from the author from the hallway signage informing about Healing Market offerings: yoga, meditation, board game and parents workshop Becoming better contributors to social impact

Notably, COSCUP extended its support to attendees who are parents, a demographic often left underserved in such environments. By dedicating specialized rooms, sessions and workshops to parents and children, COSCUP fostered an environment where developers and enthusiasts with children could participate fully without compromising on their family responsibilities.

Image from the author showing door signage for the parent-child workshop

Image from the author attending Wine Yoga session

In conclusion, COSCUP’s stance on well-being transcended the theoretical to embrace the practical, acknowledging the multifaceted nature of conference participation. The meticulous considerations for attendees’ mental and physical well-being reflect the conference’s commitment to holistic care, setting an example for other events to prioritize the welfare of their participants.

Beyond the conference halls: embracing cultural diversity

COSCUP invited participants to explore the rich tapestry of its host city beyond the conference walls. As a first-time traveler to Asia, I embarked on this journey with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. The value of in-person conferences became evident as I immersed myself in different cultures. Tangible experiences – from unfamiliar scents to novel flavors – offer a depth of engagement that virtual interactions can’t replicate. COSCUP’s encouragement to step beyond the digital realm aligns perfectly with the yearning for immersive experiences. International Exchanges Cross Community Gathering, Taipei City Tour, and several other community lead gatherings offered opportunities for meetings outside the conference walls, allowing participants to strengthen their interpersonal relationships.

Image from the author with other attendants from all around Asia during the international gathering night

Image from the author with COSCUP organizers at the end of the Taipei City Tour, which included a walk-in tour through the Old Town and a Chinese medicine experience in the Daily Health store

Image from the author with other COSCUP participants making medicinal tea at the Daily Health Chinese Medicine shop experience

Why attend conferences?

While digital interactions possess the potential for depth, the allure of in-person conferences holds a distinct magic. This allure magnifies when we immerse ourselves in diverse cultures. Even when we share common themes, the prism of reception and cultural context transforms how we comprehend and receive information. Sensory dimensions such as scents, tastes, textures and even ambient temperature intricately shape our attention and interpretation. The symphony of these sensations underpins why we travel; it’s an experience beyond the distraction-prone realm of simultaneous online engagement.

I seized the chance to integrate myself into the country’s fabric and cross the east coast of the island by bike. I gathered some useful information about it which you can read here.

The essence of conferences truly thrives in the hushed conversations, spontaneous exchanges, and the symphony of interaction beyond the spotlight. Sensory immersion plays a pivotal role—varied sights, sounds, scents and tastes provide a holistic understanding of the conference’s backdrop and its cultural nuances. These elements, often absent in virtual participation, infuse layers of depth into the learning process. The impact of international conference travel transcends the confines of the conference hall, offering a multifaceted experience that enriches both professional and personal growth. It serves as a catalyst for forging meaningful connections, fostering a broader comprehension of global perspectives, and embracing the transformative potency of diverse cultural viewpoints.


Beyond the conference sessions, COSCUP’s true essence lies in the connections forged, dialogues exchanged, and camaraderie nurtured within its corridors. It’s a collective journey that fuels personal evolution and transformation. The intricate tapestry of community engagement, well-being initiatives, and cultural immersion makes COSCUP an event that leaves an indelible mark.

As we contemplate the multifaceted nature of COSCUP, let’s acknowledge its distinctive blend of global perspectives, user-centric design and well-being advocacy. COSCUP transcends being just a tech event; it’s a platform that fosters connections, celebrates diversity, and sparks meaningful conversations that cross geographical boundaries. This is the true spirit of COSCUP – a narrative woven with threads of innovation, inclusivity and cross-cultural understanding.

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Categories: FLOSS Research