The original story of openness was this: I posted my “Stephen’s Guide to the Logical Fallacies” for anyone to use on the web in 1995, which led to me being invited to Australia for three months to help a philosophy professor online, which in turn gave me the international experience I needed to land my job at NRC, which I still have 22 years later.

I also think almost every invitation I’ve ever gotten to travel and speak (which has resulted in me being able to travel around the world) has resulted from my free and open online newsletter and the articles associated with it that I’ve posted over the years (it’s certainly not my official publications!).

Even before all that, though, are the invitations I received from Rik Hall to travel to New Brunswick and offer workshops based on the strength of my (free and open) contributions to the WWW-DEV mailing list (people have forgotten about mailing lists, but they’re the original open content).

To me, of course, sharing openly online is just what you did. It’s what characterized the bulletin boards and open fourms. It’s how we exchanged software and ideas and support. The idea of blocking access or charging money didn’t make since, because it meant people wouldn’t get to see what you were sharing, and what’s the point of that?

I don’t know what I would have become were it not for sharing my work openly. My entire career has been the result of it. You never would have heard of me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and even if I were really successful in my chosen field of philosophy, it would have been for a very different sort of contribution, not broadly useful, not widely accessible.

That’s the other side of openness, I think – what I’ve become. The world have been truly generous with me, not with money, but with what I really value – knowledge, insight, feedback, friendship and trust. This has changed me in more ways than I can count – made me more reflective, more considerate, more embracing of different values, cultures and beliefs. I can’t imagine a greater gift.

In the Office flickr photo by Stephen Downes shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license modified with frame from original story of openness superimposed on the screen behind Stephen.

Media Description: White haired distinguished man seated at office desk, on the computer screen behind is an image of the same man many years earlier speaking in an interview

Shared by: Stephen Downes via email

Reuse License: CC BY NC SA Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike