Friday, February 15th, 2008

Take our files, raw.

Short. Here’s a page of our raw graphics files. If you find that fun, have some. If you make an interesting change, all the better.

Long. We believe in openness. But openness is a process. It’s not so much that openness is difficult or painful* it’s that openness is non-obvious. You don’t see each successive layer until you remove the one above it.

Since the site started, we’ve enjoyed kibitzing about how it should look. We’d talk about layout and design. We’d throw up an image and sit back for reactions. Occasionally a user would get inspired and post what they thought something should look like. We just concluded a great exchange about the new “Author” and “Legacy” badges. Members helped us refine the wording and the colors enormously.

Open, right? But wait! Why didn’t we post our raw images for members to play with, if they wanted? You can talk about a GIF, but that’s like asking people to have conversations about a prepared speech.

Frankly, until now, I never even thought of the idea. I’ve never heard of a company that did it. And although it happens on open source projects, it’s not universal. The Open Library project, for example, is a model of openness. You can download both code and data; but you won’t find any design files on the site.

So, why not? We don’t lose trademark or copyright by posting a raw Photoshop file, with layers and alternate versions, anymore than we lose them by posting GIFs and JPEGs. What is the potential downside? Just in case there’s any confusing, we’ve posted a notice about copyright and trademark, but also granted explicit permission to make changes and blog about them.

So, here’s a wiki page for us to post our raw graphics files, and users to view, edit and remix them. It’s a very selective list so far, mostly because I started with what was lying around my on my desktop.**

More, much deeper openness coming next week…

*Although maintaining the “What I did today?” page proved too much work, and it helps that I have very thick skin for most criticism.
**There’s a side-benefit to putting all the files up on the wiki. Last time I lost my hard drive I lost almost no work—it’s all up on the “cloud” these days—except for my Photoshop files.

Labels: love, member input, open data, openness


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