WTF Is FOSS And Where Is My Free Beer?

b2abda0931164d9a5ed5da2e5e632e01-d8m6cprOpen Source is AWESOME.

And by the end of this post, I hope you think Open Source is AWESOME, too.

Do you already know what FOSS is?

Do you like free beer?

So do I.

F O S S stands for Free Open Source Software. But what does that have to do with beer?

Let’s break it down.


There are two ways that the word ‘free’ is typically defined. Free, as in beer, otherwise known as gratis, or free, as in speech, otherwise known as libre. With regards to software, specifically, libre, is always applicable. But sometimes the gratis definition applies, too.

How many of you have heard of copyright? Of trademark?

These are types of licenses and one of the licenses in the FOSS world is the Creative Commons license. CC, for short.

This is NOT a talk about licenses, so go look that up in your copious FREE time, but for now, understand that when you see FREE with regards to FOSS, it means as in both speech and beer. Typically if Open Source Software is only libre, it will only have OSS – missing the ‘F’.

Instead of doing this in order, I’m shooting straight to the second ‘S’ in FOSS, which stands for ‘software’ – the encoded information or computer instructions. These can be scripts, programs, applications, operation systems. As opposed to hardware which is the physical parts of a system.

Any questions?

And now for the good stuff!

The term “open source” refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible.

The term originated in the context of software development to designate a specific approach to creating computer programs. Today, however, “open source” designates a broader set of values—what we call “the open source way.” Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.

But what does that mean?

OPEN EXCHANGE refers to the idea itself. That you put your ideas out there for other people to see, to help with, to promote, to develop and edit and nurture and grow. While PARTICIPATION is people working together to accomplish something.

If you are quietly researching the best way to grow tomatoes and discover the perfect balance of sun and water and I’m quietly researching the best way to grow tomatoes and I find the perfect balance of seed to soil ratio, wouldn’t we have better tomatoes if we worked together? And that guy over there who is working on potatoes finds that he can apply our research to create the perfect hybrid tomato / potato plant.

RAPID PROTOTYPING is all about coming up with solutions quickly. Like brainstorming. If you actually built the idea as quickly as you thought of it. If you only think about a thing without building it, you can’t test it in the real world. You can imagine what will happen when you test it, but you won’t know if you’re right or not without building it. Therefore, you build and test it. And when it fails, you figure out why and you build another version based on the knowledge you’ve gained.

An ideal MERITOCRACY is an environment where the best ideas win. Everyone has access to the same information. The key to a successful meritocracy is diversity which brings me to the final aspect of the open source way.

The COMMUNITY refers to the people that come together to support a specific idea, the details of execution and development and so on.


While open source started with software, the open source way is now used to create and contribute in a variety of ways like open source gaming, science, education, government, manufacturing, health, law, and organizational dynamics.

Isn’t Open Source AWESOME?

If I’ve inspired you to find out more about Open Source, there’re TONS of ways to get involved from downloading plans to build your own garden robot, getting your city to pass an open government policy, or introducing open source to your local library and so much more on

I look forward to hearing about your experiences!

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