Bill Hooker
On science and selfishness. -
I think this goes beyond scientists. Pretty much the only reason to adopt another desktop word processing platform other than Word is ideological. If there was something else that worked as well, people would not spend the money that Office costs, but there isn't. We are all busy and getting things done on time is really important. - Deepak Singh
I remember saying at a workshop that the only way CDISC, etc standards were going to get popular was via Microsoft's efforts in abstracting out the complex XML. Whether we like it or not, that's the best option out there and they're making the effort. And y'all know I have no love for Microsoft - Deepak Singh
"If there was something else that worked as well" -- you mean apart from Google Docs, Open Office, BBEdit...? There are plenty of choices, some of which work as well and some of which work better. The point is, none of them work exactly the same, and it's the disinclination to do a little extra work now for a big payoff later that puzzles and irritates me. "I'm busy" only goes so far. - Bill Hooker
And what is the big payoff. I don't see it. It's a change just cause, to an inferior product in most cases. Yes, for most document writing, I agree that Google Docs is more than sufficient (and Google Docs isn't open source either for this argument). The fact remains that you need to get things done quickly and efficiently and it will take a significantly better product to get people to move away from one they are familiar with. And in this case the only reason to change is "Microsoft is evil". - Deepak Singh
Being occupied is definitely a big piece, Deepak's argument is another. The idea of supporting noble causes while working being completely alien to most researchers is a third. Ask around who actually knows that there is more to a computer than Windows ("what is an operating system?"), Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Power Point and Photoshop? - Björn Brembs
And then there is the problem of IT departments preventing users from installing anything on their machines at all... - Björn Brembs
Actually I'd argue that Explorer is an excellent example. Most places I have been to, people still word, but they also use Firefox, so much so that internal IT has to start developing apps that support Firefox. People changed not because FF was open source, but because it was much better. - Deepak Singh
I would love publishers to accept manuscripts in other format than .doc - last time I've tried, Bioinformatics template was usable only with MS Word (OO messed up things completely). I think somebody mentioned this already, that possibility of Google Docs to automatically submit a manuscript to a journal would be a killer feature. - Pawel Szczesny
Deepak - you're well aware of the effects that MS's monopoly power has had on standards alone and you know perfectly well the potential of standards (= semantic web) and the payoff that comes with not allowing commercial lockin of that potential. There is more reason to change than "MS is evil" and you know it. What there isn't, is enough immediate personal advantage to get selfish (/oh-so-busy) people to change. - Bill Hooker
Bill, even as someone who doesn't use Windows at work or at home, or anywhere else, I do not grudge Microsoft their "monopoly", even if I don't agree with all the methods and the damage to standards, etc. If there were high quality alternatives (see Firefox example above) people would make the change, even corporate IT. The burden on the competition just goes up to be REALLY good. - Deepak Singh - FF and Explorer are roughly even in 2009. Given that (by your own lights) Explorer is a vastly inferior product, what explains its persistence except MS's willingness to abuse their monopoly -- sorry, "advantageous market position"? - Bill Hooker
Explorer has been around a lot longer, used to have 95% market share just a few years ago. For those who care about their browsers, FF's market share is even higher. That it's come this far in such a short time is testament to the fact that it's a better product. Otherwise it would not have a chance. And remember the people using older versions of IE are the ones who don't know any other world, but they are not the people we are talking about by and large. - Deepak Singh
I know all too well the attitude that Bjorn and Deepak refer to. Getting the word out about open data helps a lot, but sometimes the tools just aren't ready either. Years ago I tried to turn my PI onto Connotea from Endnote and he found it lacked features, but I've turned dozens of people on to Firefox with no problems. - Mr. Gunn
There are some interesting comments about this post here as well: - Bora Zivkovic
Bill, ever read The Delicious Lesson? I think that's very relevant here. Even if the imagined global end state of the system is far more desirable than the current state, this state will only be reached if all local transitions are beneficial too. This doesn't have to mean "naive" self-interest. Living up to ideals can work too. Just not so much. Find something that really serves people's own interest, and the system state will topple quick. - Meryn Stol
It's just about making better offerings... Our current ones suck. Or they are "sold" badly. For example, storytelling might help to explain benefits of online networking and sharing. - Meryn Stol
As for Open Office vs MS Office... I don't know if OO really helps that much. I hate all "office" documents anyway. A move away from paper documents to dynamic views on data would be far more beneficial. You can't expect the mass to do something purely out of "MS-hate". - Meryn Stol
Thanks for the link, Meryn. I hadn't seen that, and I think you're right, it's very relevant. What I think I'm learning here (with all the usual caveats about generalizations firmly in place) is that Jo/e Average is reluctant to give anything up, even for future gain -- he/she wants every change to be a gain right away. People who want systemic change (e.g. OA nuts like me) had better understand that... and should really just quit railing against it, because it ain't gonna change. - Bill Hooker
Nice place to quickly share my personal theory of why OO isn't as good as a competitor to Office as FF is to IE: Developers don't care about Office suits, and rightly so. Office suits are "passe" to developers. The web is not. The web is there for as far as we can see in the future. - Meryn Stol
It could be that the current transition the OA movement is looking for is impossible. Maybe it could work better to start something entirely new, something not based on papers, but on direct sharing of everything. "open notebook" science, but with a notebook on a site like Delicious, with networking and collaboration opportunities. FriendFeed already has brought some well-willing scientists together, it seems. - Meryn Stol
Part of the reason FF works is that it doesn't conflict with other activities. It's very low-commitment. - Meryn Stol
Great post Bill. What do you think if the plugins were made available for MS Word AND OO Writer? - Ricardo Vidal
Ricardo -- Peter Sefton brought that up, talking about interoperability -- see - Bill Hooker
As people more eloquent than me can explain: open science, open access, and open source are very different issues. Sometimes it is helpful to use an example of success in open source software to explain the power of openness and shared resources. But in other cases, such as in Moody's attack on Wilbanks, conflating open science with open source software does a lot more harm than good. I think people are going to look at that attack and be prone to write-off "open science" as a crazy fringe movement. - Steve Koch
Cameron Neylon, Jean-Claude Bradley, Deepak, and I'm sure many others do a much better job as ambassadors for open science. They recognize that persuasion is going to win over a lot more people than attacks. And that there are many existing legitimate reasons for scientists not to embrace complete openness. - Steve Koch
It's preposterous to criticize a proponent of open science for needing or even enjoying to use MS Word. I don't see any difference between this kind of criticism and demanding that an open scientists immediately cease using any technology or information that is protected by patent, copyright, trade secret, or market dominance. - Steve Koch
There is no paradox in me wholly supporting open science and profit-driven capitalists simultaneously. I support money and people who make lots of it. I think MS Word has added a tremendous amount of value for billions of people over the last couple decades. I don't think you can argue with that. You can argue that 10x or 100x as much value could have been added by an open-source word processor--but that's an experiment we can't carry out (as far as I can see). - Steve Koch
Steve - the only thing I can add here is that when embracing a closed source solution, you have to be careful about vendor lock-in. It sucks to be forced to upgrade on their schedule because they control the data format. - Mr. Gunn
Well asking that I be careful is a much more reasonable position than branding me a hypocrite for using closed-source software :) - Steve Koch
ambassadors for open science? forgive me you must be kidding, why we need brand ambassadors and what kind of open science you are talking about, if you want to do advocacy for open science you need to make a strong case, set the examples where people really admire to move on open science, by forcing the ideology- just attacking and writing provoking blog articles you can not bring the changes. - Abhishek Tiwari
Abhishek -- That's a big part of what I meant by citing those "ambassadors." They make a strong case and have set really great examples that I think people can admire...and without attacking or forcing ideologies, in my opinion. So, I wasn't kidding, but I also don't have very strong opinions about that word, ambassador. - Steve Koch
well I have only one objection that is phrase "ambassadors", otherwise I agree totally with your observation. Problem is when we promote some one at that level aka "ambassadors" they start thinking what they observe is only way to do the things, open science will be a community effort - Abhishek Tiwari
when you start doing Open XYZ, there is a responsibility to convince people that you have good intentions at first place, from Bill Hooker blog all I see is his anti Elsevier agenda depending on the way he present the things. Why don't he write on how much money was waived by Open publishing houses such as PLoS and BMC in past where some one was not able to pay open access fees? - Abhishek Tiwari
rather than showing negative side of others better present positive side of yours - Abhishek Tiwari
The appropriate philosophy is making small changes, going for the small wins first and think about what is more important. Open source software or semantic underpinnings in this case. It's never cut and dry. If you go for the all or nothing solution, you won't get anywhere. - Deepak Singh
Abhishek, one could argue that people like Cameron and Jean-Claude have done for open science, both in writing and in practice than pretty much anyone on the planet. And while Bill and I might disagree, he is single handedly responsible for bringing open science to the masses with his classic posts at Three Quarks Daily. I agree though that providing solutions (see Jean-Claude) is always more effective. - Deepak Singh
@Deepak I think there's just one tweak I would make to your otherwise cogent contributions to the discussion: the open product doesn't have to be *better*, it just has to be good enough to compete as a free product. This is the lesson I learned from Lawrence Lessig's tale about ASCAP and BMI from his TED talk. - Chris Lasher
I am not modest, but I have to disagree with Deepak's kind assessment of my contribution. Paul Davies was talking about Open Science, at least to fellow scholars, while most of the BioGang were still in diapers -- and Mitch Waldrop's SciAm article did more to bring Open Science "to the masses" than any blog post ever. To name just two. I don't mean to be ungrateful, Deepak, it just felt funny to leave your comment un-footnoted, as it were. (Or perhaps I just like arguing with you. :-)) - Bill Hooker
Chris ... for an non-entrenched product, correct. For an established product, it has to be better. Inertia is a strong force. Take Chrome for instance. Even if there was a mac alternative, the only thing that would make me leave firefox was if it was significantly better, since I have all these plugins. - Deepak Singh
Bill ... Arguing is good ;). I do think though that your trilogy of posts has had more of an impact than you realize. I will admit that Mitch is the man :) - Deepak Singh
@Deepak Well, sure, but that's not the same situation. You don't pay for Chrome or Firefox. Somebody pays for MS Office. Lessig's point was about expensive v. cheap/free. Now, if the department pays for it, does that negate the effect (because it doesn't feel like you personally paid for it)? Maybe. - Chris Lasher
Also, the nice thing about being associated with the CS department, now, is that papers are written in LaTeX. ;-) So be careful about "scientists" as a broad term. Probably the more quantitative the research, the less likely they'll use either word processor. LaTeX FTW! - Chris Lasher
Exactly, most people do not pay for a copy of office. They get it via their department, etc. Most people also don't use LaTeX (I know very few biologists and chemists who do). If I want to develop a plugin which I want people to use, Word is the obvious target and if you want to choose another platform that's great, but you better have a good reason to do so. - Deepak Singh