Robert Lefkowitz


The Semasiology of Open Source (Part 2)
38 minutes, 17.7mb, recorded 2005-08-03
r0ml Lefkowitz
Computer source code has words and sentence structure like actual prose or even poetry. Writing code for the computer is like writing an essay. It should be written for other people to read, understand and modify. These are some of the thoughts behind literate programming proposed by Donald Knuth. This is also one of the ideas behind Open Source.


"Open Source" is a phrase like "Object Oriented" - weird at first, but when it became popular, the meaning began to depend on the context of the speaker or listener. "Object Oriented" meant that PERL, C++, Java, Smalltalk, Basic and the newest version of Cobol are all "Object Oriented" - for some specific definition of "Object Oriented". Similar is the case of the phrase "Open Source".

In Part I, Lefkowitz talked about the shift of the meaning of "Open Source" away from any reference to the actual "source code," and more towards other phases of the software development life cycle. In Part II, he returns to the consideration of the relationship between "open source" and the actual "source code," and reflects upon both the way forward and the road behind, drawing inspiration from Charlemagne, King Louis XIV, Donald Knuth, and others.

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Robert Lefkowitz has spent 30 years weaving software for the airline, nuclear power, financial services and telecommunications industries. His primary interest is in the semasiology of software artifacts--usually expressed as an interest in "what the code means," i.e. programming languages, or "what the data means," i.e. databases, or "what the message means," i.e. middleware. He holds a degree in computer science from MIT, obtained before computers were invented.


This program is from the O'Reilly Open Source Convention held in Portland, Oregon August 1-5, 2005.

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This free podcast is from our Open Source Conference series.