Thanks to the announcement of the Nokia-Microsoft partnership, I’m getting another one of those chances to think about open source and closed (curated) platforms and ecosystems. There’s always rumblings in the digital faith space about open source and how it can play a role as the/a answer to issues and reach, but too often, I’m hearing open source pitched as a platform solution, when the issues with evangelism, missions, etc. have more to do with ecosystem impacts than just platforms.
It is my opinion that the shift that the Nokia/MS partnership heralds is this acknowledgement that ecosystems are the next playing field for mobile, not platforms. Not that platforms (and the developers that come with them) aren’t important, but that their role isn’t any more important that issues of access, logistics, and flexibility to response.
When it comes to digital faith, we have several platforms (electronic bibles and music to name a few), but very few real ecosystems (the function and nature of Bible societies, and to some extent publishing companies, fills this view nicely). Centering just in on Bible societies for example, it isn’t just the distribution of Bibles, but the curation of faith through social programs, translation services, assistances to for- and non-profits, policy management/lobbying, and (hopefully) the sharing and maturing of believers who define faith first by belief in Jesus Christ. In a sense, they are a hub of several types of activities – so just advocating “go open source” doesn’t meet how they can respond.
Going open source with the disemenation and distribution of Bible texts could be part of their solution – when the matter of network assets, logistics, printing, and analytics has been answered. Going open source where the text (video and audio) can be structured and openly built up can be a solution – when the matter of monetizing the work so that those translating and making those structures can feed their families has been answered. Going open source with the hope of participation isn’t the same as already having community involvement in other aspects of fellowship (digital or otherwise) and opening up a further work doesn’t stress community threads. If you will, open source anything doesn’t matter – its how going open (shared duty, accountability, and responsibility) effects the other spokes of the wheel.
As I tweeted recently, “mobile open source initiatives need to not just answer the platform questions, but ecosystem relevance (whether tied to others or on it’s own).” In respect to digital faith initiatives, we’ve not only got to be able to say “go open source,” but identify the impacts that doing so will endear to current ecosystems. It might be the case that going open source for a platform in the chain will disrupt the entire sea – knowing this, and then helping individuals, ministries, and organizations navigate life afterwards is not just a mobile opportunity, but a key to displaying service as technology’s fingerprint to ministry intiatives.