Open Content experiences


The extension of the FLOSS model to content

This theme has imposed itself on open-source programmers: in fact software is always followed by manuals, that is to say, by text documents, whether they are in digital form or of paper. If the software is free, the related documents should also be free.

Why should one consider only the documentation of free software and leave out other cultural fields? Let us think only of that content related to eLearning.



MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the first well-known educational organization to release its own didactical materials with a licence of the copyleft type. Thanks to the project MIT OCW (MIT OpencourseWare) MIT has, since 2002 MIT, made all the materials used in its courses available on the web free of charge.
Not only does MIT make its own materials available, but they are also being organized according to standards currently under discussion in the world of eLearning. MIT is adapting their technological platform to conform to the Open Knowledge Initiative standards, which are being defined by the MIT together with Stanford University.
The choice of copyleft by such an institution and in such dimensions (all the courses) is relevant from numerous points of view:
- it is an exceptional support for the position of those who affirm that knowledge - and educational content with it - is the "heritage of humanity" and for that reason it must be available to everybody, free of charge and easy to distribute;
- it can cause significant adjustments in the publishing market which has to compete with MIT free materials;
- it is an intelligent marketing initiative. MIT can afford to give free access to content because the “added value" of actual enrolment lies the good quality of their teaching personnel!



Wikepedia is certainly another relevant case of the free sharing of knowledge. Yet, while MIT makes a product that is complete and validated and available to everybody, Wikepedia is an example of a second relevant objective of FLOSS: cooperative formulation.
Wikipedia is a project which aims at cooperatively creating a multilingual encyclopaedia - there are currently 34 languages! The English version exceeds 1,135,000,000 words, the French version 285,000,000 the Italian 158,000,000 and 118,000,000 for the Spanish version, ...(April 2006)

Wikipedia is continuously enriching and widening its content thanks to the voluntary cooperation of thousands and thousands of people scattered all over the world.


In a nutshell, Wikipedia is the tip of an iceberg: the most significant case of collaborative production of content based on the following principles:
pallinogiallo.gif everyone can upload new content, not necessarily complete and well-organized (somebody will do that);
pallinogiallo.gif anyone can modify already existing content provided the aim is improvement;
pallinogiallo.gif all the alterations are traced so that a previous version can be reactivated.
The basic hypothesis is that the modifications progressively improve the product and also that intentional episodes of vandalism can be thwarted by the supervision of the community.