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Levels of openness knowledge

Published: June 25, 2006. Filed under: Misc.

Level 0

You were upset when you heard about the DRM “lock-in” of Apple’s iTunes Music Store, so you burned all those locked-up files to CDs, then ripped them back in Windows Media Player. As WMA. You can’t play them on your iPod anymore, but at least you can play them on all the other portable music players you own.

You blog on MySpace. But you keep links on your MySpace page to your old LiveJournal and your old Xanga blog, so people can still read all your old entries there if they want to.

Level 1

You’ve heard of “open source”, but don’t really know what it is. When you got frustrated with the DRM lock-in of WMA, you dug out those CDs and ripped them again, this time to MP3. Now they’ll play on all your portable music players.

You have a Blogger account. You don’t link to your old MySpace page anymore because you don’t want anyone to remember when you were one of those people, but you wish there was a way you could get all your old entries (at least, the ones that aren’t embarrassing) to show up under your Blogger account.

You’re thinking about buying a Mac, because things are supposed to be so much easier on a Mac.

Life was so much easier at Level 0.

Level 2

You own a Mac and love the ease of use; you can make music with Garage Band and burn it to CD, or make movies in iMovie and burn them to DVD.

You’ve owned your own domain for years, and you’ve been using Movable Type since it hit the big time, but you’re thinking you’ll have to switch to something else soon because you want to launch a couple other blogs and with MT that’ll cost you.

You use Firefox, and you know that it’s “open source”, but you think that has something to do with not having to pay to get it.

Life was so much easier at Level 1.

Level 3

You’ve been running on Wordpress ever since someone sent you to read “Freedom 0”, and sneer at all those people who still run MT or Blogger and don’t “get it”. But you also love your Mac and nothing on earth could part you from it, so you don’t understand why Mark is switching away; everything’s just so much easier on the Mac! Doesn’t he get it?

You do still have an old PC in the corner, though, and you’ve run into some strange issues trying to sync up data between it and the Mac, particularly when you’re exporting things like iTunes playlists. You chalk it up to “a Windows thing”, and look forward to throwing that old machine away.

Life was easier at Level 2, but you wouldn’t go back for anything.

Level 4

You’ve read both the GNU Manifesto and the entire preamble to the GPL. You’ve tried Linux a few times, but never quite got the hang of it. You still use Wordpress (because it’s GPL), but you take great pains not to customize your install too much in case that breaks your ability to import entries into something else later on.

You keep hearing about these things called “microformats”, but you’re not sure exactly what they’re for.

You remember fondly how easy things used to be at Level 3.

Level 5

You’ve personally attended at least one lecture by Richard Stallman. You use Linux full-time and wouldn’t consider anything else, for any reason. You refused to buy an iPod because it wouldn’t play Ogg Vorbis files. You ditched your GPL blogging application and wrote your own, along with a custom importer to pull in all your old entries. You’re going to release it soon, under the GPL. You refuse to create a profile at any site which won’t mark up your personal info with hCard.

You published an article about microformats before the word “microformats” had been invented.

Steve Mallett personally invited you to join his “datalibre” mailing list when he started it. You’ve got a ClaimID account and claim everything you post that has a permalink.

Everything you write is stored as ASCII or utf-8 text. When markup is needed you use HTML or LaTeX.

You refuse to use GMail because they don’t offer IMAP. For your IMAP accounts you refuse to use any client that’s not Mutt.

You don’t get nearly as much work done as you did when you were only at Level 4.

Level 6

You use whatever operating system is placed in front of you but you know, by heart, how to install the various Free Software applications you’ll use to get actual work done. You have an iPod, and you converted all your Ogg Vorbis files to MP3 for it, but you kept backups of the Oggs. You buy music from iTunes, but once you have enough to make an audio CD you burn them and keep the CD somewhere safe.

You got bored with datalibre and moved on. So did everybody else, apparently.

Your long-term data storage format for the things you write is any or all of:

You use GMail for mailing lists, the IMAP access your employer gives you for work and the IMAP access your web hosting company gives you for personal mail. You use whatever mail client is easiest to configure for the platform you’re working on today, and every once in a while you pop open Evolution on a Linux box at home to pull all that mail down (using GMail’s POP access). Someday you’ll get around to doing something useful with the archive of every email you’ve received since the turn of the millennium, but you’ve got better things to do right now and it can sit in its neat little text files for a while longer.

You’re working on implementing hCard support for comments people leave on your blog, and thinking about maybe doing XFN too.

You’ve claimed your various personal sites on ClaimID, but beyond that you rely on the fact that you’ve had a consistent online identity since your freshman year in college and anyone who wants to find stuff you’ve posted can just search for that in Google. Even the really embarrassing stuff you wrote when you were at the previous levels will come up.

Your life has gotten a lot easier since you moved up from Level 5.