We are Living in a World of Open Source – Where do Travel Bloggers Fit In and Why?


Photo courtesy of Tyros.com


We are now living in a world of Open Source everything. While this subject might be a little off topic than what I usually write about on Wanderlusting, this is an area that is relevant to all bloggers no matter what their topic. I believe travel bloggers in particular are a core group of leading influencers and pioneers when it comes to adopting and participating in open source technology and principles.


On The Shoulders Of Giants


Nearly every aspect of our industry is touched by open source technology and principles. The software development and design world is now built on the cross collaboration between individuals and organizations working independently towards common goals and projects.


In many cases they are driven by nothing other than the passion for creation or the challenge of innovation. Money, prestige and fame are not always the prime driving forces. Despite what we may have learned about economics and the principles of the free market and competition, cross-collaboration and the free exchange of ideas are becoming the prime drivers of the new economy and shaping the world around us.


Indeed the tools of the trade such as GIT repositories, GIMP photo editing software, Open Office Desktop software, to name a few are all open source efforts. Even the major platforms for our industry such as Wordpress and Drupal are the products of thousands of developers devoting millions of hours, who span from one end of the globe to the other.


Where would the modern day CMS platform be today were it not for this monumental effort and open source design? Probably stuck somewhere in some kind of proprietary limbo hell. These efforts have allowed our blogs (if you will) to become more than the simple sounding boards since the days of Live Journal.


Now they are adaptable, scalable and highly responsive to the changing demands of the world and the needs of their users. WordPress has risen to become the dominant and most used CMS platform for blogs and websites across the world. Drupal drives many of the larger social media platforms, which we use to connect, share and collaborate on. Twitter, AOL, Linkedin, Yahoo and yes even Farmville are all built on the Drupal platform.


Open Source Social Revolution


The engines that drive our social interaction, content distribution, research and cross collaboration, even if not built on open source technologies (though most are built on open source design principles) share in this concept of open source social principles. We like what we like, love what we love, share it, take from it if we want, build on it and pass it along to grow, morph and be reborn into something new in the world.


A classic example of this is the Double Rainbow YouTube video. How many video spin-offs, song parodies and internet memes has this created?  Hundreds, maybe thousands?


Though little in some ways for most, all of us in one way or another have our online reputation, presence or brand affected through this new online social network. Either directly though participation or indirectly in the form of public opinion on issues that affect the world we live in or the subjects which shape our interests, we are all touched.


Shaping The New Business World


Open source is not only shaping social interactions, but also the business world which we operate in that drives our economies. The founder of Drupal, Dries wrote about the need for businesses to adopt open source technology and principles recently. In this article he talks about some of the benefits that open source offers companies. Some of these benefits are inherent flexibility to the demands of a changing business world, lower operating costs, not being locked into a proprietary software framework, scalability to fit the size of an organization and different business environments as well as a pool of talent that can be taped into from a robust and expert community of developers.


These benefits are just starting to be recognized by medium to large scale organizations. This creates great opportunity for everyone from content creators to developers and public relations representatives. Not only can your work or message be spread to a greater audience and be given a life of its own as it is liked, shared, stumbled and tweeted out into the world, but the overall public reaction can be monitored in real time.


Immediate, real time marketing has become the new norm through Social Monitoring Services. The pulse of a brand, article or PR campaign is now immediately available and can be shaped as it evolves. Gauging this public sentiment and guiding a brand image requires a nimble, adaptable set of guidelines and business model, which takes much from open source principles.

It is more than the nature of business that is changing. The way in which business operate themselves and the decision making that goes on internally on many levels is also undergoing a transformation.

In some ways it is within the activist and socially progressive communities where these new ideas, methods and models are coming to life, undergoing metamorphosis and flourishing. The Occupy movement, as pointed out in this semi-recent article by Michel Bauwens the founder of the P2P Foundation, in different forms around the world is reinvigorating and reshaping the process of democratic decision making and communication through General Assemblies and Spokes Counsels.


I had the privilege to sit in on a General Assembly overseen by Los Indignados in Brussels during my travels through Europe last year. Held in three languages and following the evolving guidelines and principles of cummunicating through hand signals was an eye opening experience. Both a revolutionary concept and daunting task, which requires at times dancing between serene order and teeming chaos. Much like the frayed free market these days it would seem.


These democratic and engaging practices are seeping the way into the business world. Take KickStarter for example, an open source crowd funding website. This is one example of open source and deomcratic principles at work. Now I don't know anything about this in detail, but it does seem like they are wildly successful and have become a go to source of funding for many a project and organization.


Fund Or Die Through Crowd Sourcing


Even the sources for investment and funding in projects, ideas and organization are revolutionizing. Open source or crowd funding has jumped in popularity. Sites such as KickStarter, IndieGoGo and countless others have become invaluable for even the large scale organizations looking to gauge public interest and raise capital for projects. They have thrown in their lots with independent book publishers, artists and inspiring viedographers.


Several travel websites have been funded through these platforms and the great team of Tawny and Chris from CaptainandClark have taken to funding their projects, videos and travels through a campaign or two on KickStarter with the generous help of the Travel Blogging community of course!


Its Only As Successful As We Make It


We now no longer live in a world where it is only the concentrated mass media that has the ability to decide what is worthy of attention, consideration and discourse. This is in many ways a brave new frontier where we are our own master of our collective destinies. While this is an age old story of the collective effort of the masses against whoever controls the reigns of power at the time, open source has put us very much in the drivers seat, expanded our reach, enriched the content and elevated the conversations we have. For better or worse this is now a more interconnected, exponentially changing frontier that is far reaching and intricately complex.


This is a time where we are seeing something transformational, unique and unknown, akin to the marriage of the Gutenberg Press, Marconi's Telegraph and the Phoenician Alphabet all rolled into one, juiced up on petrol in a Ford Model T tearing around an uncharted Internet highway.


As travel bloggers we see first hand the different cultures we visit. We have a first row seat to the world we live in. Both the down and dirty and the miraculously awe inspiring are common place. I have only seen, but a fleeting fraction and many others are in positions of authority on this supject matter way beyond my current understanding. Yet in my limited travel thus far I have seen enough to confirm this as true in my own eyes.


We take in cultural, religious and social differences that we can try to understand, if we keep our eyes open as Caz Makepeace from YtravelBlog has so recently pointed out. While I do not like to lay claim to what others owe, I feel myself personally indebted for allowing to be a part of these events in this time. If I were to squander the opportunities that have been given to me for travel, the ability for insights into different cultures and the unlimited human potential that abounds around me I would feel a failure.


Just my two cents. I think this is a pretty important topic even if I did possibly glaze over a few key points or qualify some facts without getting into supporting arguments (projects for upcoming posts). This has been something burning a hole in my brain now for months now, so I felt the need to share. Any thoughts?

About Author

Post by Kurt Trumble
The Low Down:

Kurt grew up on Long Island in New York. He spends his time learning emerging open source technologies and social media. He runs Travel With Drupal, focused on Drupal webdesign and blogging. (http://www.travelwithdrupal.info). Beatnik literature and The Beatles top his list of interests when not backpacking around.