It's not often that I comment on other blog posts, particularly on ones from other publishing houses but this one from Dana Blankenhorn on Lockheed-Martin is worthy of comment.

Blankenhorn has commented on the move by a Lockheed-Martin engineer to contribute code under an open source licence. His thesis is that defence companies should not be playing a part in the open source community and asks a series of questions."To what do we owe the honor? Have the people sworn to protect us from fanatics in caves suddenly gained open source religion? Are they trying to ingratiate themselves with a new Administration which looks favorably on open source? Or are they trying to take it over, infiltrate it?"

Apart from the incipient paranoia of the last sentence. This raises an interesting question - what industries can or cannot contribute to open source. Should we accept open source code from the porn industry? From tobacco companies? I'd always thought that the whole concept of open-source code stood and fell by the code itself: if it's useful.

It also shows little sense of history. The Internet itself has strong links with the defence industry. Much of the early work was initiated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Indeed, if we're going to go back further into history, then many of the early advances in computing were carried out by individuals with strong links to the defence industry: think of Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers cracking the German code in the Second World War and, on the other side, Conrad Zuse's early work on computing. So, the defence industry has a long association with IT.

But most of all, I'm concerned about this attitude that those dirty war-mongers at Lockheed-Martin shouldn't be sullying the fair name of open source. For a long time, the open-source community has fought off suggestions that it's some form of hippiedom. We've now reached the stage where open-source software is widely accepted within business and has finally shed its hippyish reputation - by saying that a particular industry is not acceptable;is to risk returning to those days.


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