I did some data entry at my local Barack Obama campaign office earlier this week and was pleased to note that the computers were running the Ubuntu operating system. The web browser, of course, was Mozilla Firefox. Both Ubuntu (a Linux-based operating system) and Firefox are open source software, developed in a collaborative, community model. The open source movement started as a grass-roots effort that generated significant excitement among software developers, and one of the big draws of open source development is that it’s open to anyone to contribute as much or as little as he or she wants. Contributors to open source projects feel part of a larger community.
Thus, I find it particularly fitting that Barack Obama is using open source software in his campaign. Obama has inspired amazing grass-roots support and energy, and more excitement than I’ve ever seen for a presidential candidate. There are thousands of volunteers contributing their time and money to electing him president. Just like an open source project, those of us working on the campaign feel part of this “people-powered” community.
The decision to use open source software is truly a progressive choice. And, if Obama runs his presidency with the same transparency that is inherent in open source software, it will be a welcome change from the past eight years.