What kind of open are you looking for?

If you hear someone talking about "open source," it's quite possible that this isn't what they mean. One major soft drink company, for example, was talking about turning their brand open source. Pretty unlikely. Do you think that they meant allowing anyone to use their brand in any way they chose on a share and share alike basis? As change swirls around, the terms matter.

Mike sent me a list of different types of open. I amended as below:

  • open source : a program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. If a car goes open source, then you're permitting others to copy your engine and body design, improve it, put their improvements back into the pool and share some more.
  • open infrastructure: Amazon's cloud is an example of this. You build the pipes and allow people to rent them to build their own systems on.
  • open architecture: A system (hardware or software) where people can learn how it works and then build things to plug in to extend it. The IBM PC had an open architecture, which meant that people could build sound cards or other devices to plug in (without asking IBM's permission).
  • open standards: relying on rules that are widely used, consensus based, published and maintained by recognized industry standards organizations. It means that you're not in charge, the standards guys are. Bluetooth is an example of attempting this, so is USB.
  • open access: APIs that make it easy for people to get at the data on your platform (twitter is a great example, so is Google maps.)
  • open video: the combination of a p2p platform, open standards, free to share and open canvas.
  • open canvas: when your platform permits users to express themselves. WordPress and Squidoo come to mind.
  • open book: this is a form of management in which all your employees see all the books, thus bridging the gulf between management and labor.
  • open sesame: the best way to get into a cave.
  • open mike: when anyone who shows up can be part of the show.  I guess the difference between this and open canvas is that this is more linear. "Who's next?"
  • open forum: users comment, rate and rank. Digg and Zagat's come to mind. We could probably divide into the approaches that are more social (Chowhound) and those that are less (Yelp).
  • open door: simple method to allow individuals speak truth to power. Getsatisfaction is one example.
  • open engagement: when individuals in power are available to all comers for questions and answers and dialogue.
  • open bar: the alternative to a cash bar. You pay one fee and then get all you want. In a world where selling is more expensive than delivering (things like bandwidth) this makes more and more sense.
  • open borders: your data is portable and you can walk out with it at any time. Amazon has closed borders (your history stays there) but OPML is open borders for RSS.
  • open elections: when anyone can vote, not just the elites, or registered users, or those that pay.
  • open house: allowing prospective buyers to walk around inside your product before deciding to buy.
  • open sauce: a company talks about its business methods publicly to
    build a brand. For example, Fred Wilson talking about how he invests or
    DUI blogger talking about how to beat a breathalyzer. (HT to Alex).
  • open to all: the opposite of a country club. A trade show or meeting or event that doesn't work to screen out attendees.
  • open identity: A protocol for carrying your identity from site to site, at your discretion.
  • open interaction: when previously private conversations (like customer support) are handled in public (via Twitter, for example).
  • open and shut: the kind of answer you rarely get.