Hotel showers are like open licences

So… have you ever had the experience where you go to a hotel and there is a shower. You are in desperate need of a good hot shower after your travels, nothing could feel as good. So, you get all sorted and then when you are ready to go you discover some bespoke piece of crap shower control that looks like no other shower control you have seen before in your life? No matter how much fumbling around you do it just doesn’t make any sense and you are lucky if you manage somehow to get it to work at the right temp and power, or maybe if you get it to work at all.

Its like that because some moron decided that no other shower controls, in the history of shower controls – which is, lets face it, rather a long history – is good enough. No other shower control in the history of the world was exactly what they wanted so they had to go ahead and reinvent one. Except they did a shit job, and not only that, they did a uniquely shit job so there is no other learnings you can bring to this particular control that will help you work out just what the fuck is going on….

Well… thats the same problem, believe it or not, that bespoke open licenses present the world. Open licenses are a design problem and one that needs considerable thought and consideration. A good open license is not only one that is easily understood, but one that can be translated across territories (legally and semantically),is legally sound, and one that can be understood in relationship to other licenses (‘license compatibility’).  These features are hard to achieve but they are important to achieve.

If you come across some thing with a open license, you need to know it is bona fide, it is legally sound, and will help you use/reuse etc that thing in the world. That is why the Open Source Initiative checks licenses and keeps a list of those that they can verify are legally sound and conform to their definition of openness.

Now, if you go ahead and make your own license you are really making life difficult for everyone. How do we know that license actually conforms to a sensible definition of open and how do we know the construct is legally sound? How do we know that licenses position in the world in regard to other territories and licenses? Quite simply, we don’t know.

We simply, like the screwed up shower controls, don’t know how to use your license.

The lesson is – don’t do it. Don’t make your own piece of crap license. Use one of the existing ones, of which there are many.

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