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Teach me your Open Source Torah, on one foot

American Jewish World Service does important work, so when a site they built for educators and learners to access Jewish sourcetexts on social justice and other important activities disappeared overnight due to what appeared to be a domain registration lapse, I was motivated to write an essay on how organizations can appreciate their websites as more than “proprietary and Copyrighted marketing assets to better leverage their brand.” eJewishPhilanthropy, a well-read blog popular among Jewish professionals published it this morning. Here’s a snippet:

All Internet resources should be considered ephemeral resources by the unstable nature of the medium that is their technological base. Digital archivists know this. It’s why backups are so critical. Open-source advocates know this too. For creative work to remain useful (and not merely backed-up), underlying code and the content it serves need to be shared in a way that might attract their redistribution and reuse.

That way, if one site goes down, the content is still maintained and the code actively developed, elsewhere. This is what is called, open source culture. A culture of open sharing and reuse provides a layer of robustness that technology cannot. Code and content are understood to be part of a growing infrastructure – their duplication and replication being critical to the progress of the project whose span of life is measured in thousands of years, not the 3-5 years asked for in grant applications.

Philanthropists and funding organizations would be right to ask prospective grantees whether the work they produce from their funding will be shared with certain open-source and free-culture licenses (recommended below). How else can they ensure that the money that they spend isn’t limited by the lifetime of their grantees effort? They need to demand that work funded through their donations is shared so that others can pick up and innovate with what they leave off.

About Aharon N. Varady


Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes . He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words.

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