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"What is open source?"

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I was on the Novell campus a few weeks ago attending the Utah Open Source Conference. One of the days I went to the Novell cafeteria for lunch. While I was filling my plate with food, a young man next to me asked, "So do you work here?". I replied with "No, I'm here attending the open source conference." A few seconds later I was hit with a question that I was not prepared to answer.

"What is open source?" he asked. I was speechless. Did he just ask me what open source was? Is he joking? Nope, he looks pretty serious. Ahh, well then where to start? I only have a few seconds to explain it to him. I managed to come up with a horribly composed answer, and followed it up with "You know, like Firefox and Linux." He nodded and walked away.

Now that I have had more time to think about this, I want to come up with a better explanation of what open source software is.

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