I was having a talk today with Danielle about this proposal on “Open Source Engagement” on Milla Digitalia. Mostly I was being critical of the manner in which the authors sling around “open source”.

But back to Danielle, and the analogy. The fallacy of that proposal is that the authors are confusing design and process. The argument, as I can tell, is that Wikipedia and Open Source Software Development (like Linux) work a certain, so they will design their Project to work that way too (when I say “work”, I am intentionally being vague as to whether I mean design or process).

So here is the analogy:

Wikipedia/OSS are like buildings (Danielle is in an Urban Planning Program). They are designed to have as many doors as possible. All over the place. And it just so happens that people really like using the front door and the door into the kitchen, and mostly ignore the other doors.

Now, in this proposal, they make this argument: We’ve learned from Wikipedia/OSS that front doors and kitchen doors really work great, so we’re going to design our project to have a front door and a kitchen door just like they do.

My soapbox: Wikipedia/OSS work because they are designed to allow flexibility in how people interact with them. This has allowed the processes of interaction to evolve into what works best in that situation. Designing a project and limiting how people interact with it to inflexibly use a process that has evolved elsewhere will most likely not give the best results.

Of course, now that I’ve reread the proposal a couple times, I feel like I’m maybe being too harsh, but I don’t think the proposal is very clear with their Legitimacy Exchange.