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Business - Written by on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 14:53 - 2 Comments

Denis Hancock
‘Be Prepared’ goes open source: The Boy Scouts of America

The motto of Boy Scouts America is elegant in its simplicity: “Be Prepared“. As reported on ComputerWorld (which i found via Slashdot), the 98 year old organization has decided that “Open Source Software, built for the community, by the community” will help them better live up to this motto. This is no small endeavor – the software will aim to support the almost three million Scouts in America, in addition to the 1.1 million adults in the group. Interestingly, it appears that their decision was made based on the advice of a group of corporate CIOs (remember the days when corporate CIOs were the ones against open source?), and the open source site went live a month ago to help centralize and streamline application development. To quote Gregory Edwards (a contractor who helped create the site):

“It’s a true golden opportunity for the open-source community, too… by connecting it with a large group of interested adults and tech-hungry children who can be inspired to use and learn about open source. The open-source community and the Boy Scouts can spread the word on it.”

Eric S. Raymond, president of the Open Source Initiative, goes on to add:

“The scout goals of education, community service and fostering individual self-reliance are perfectly in tune with open-source community values.”

Bruce Peren (founder of the Linux Standard Base) builds on this idea, noting that:

“Consider the merit badges that scouts got in the ’50s and ’60s. These days you can’t buy the kind of chemistry sets they used because so many chemicals are connected with explosives, drugs, or lawsuits. Model rocketry is becoming another casualty. A lot of things that scouts used to do to build character aren’t open to them today. Our world is poorer for that. But open source software can provide those kids with the open vistas that a past generation had in other technologies.”

Taking this a little further, William Hurley (chief architect of open-source strategy at BMC Software) is quoted saying that “The Boy Scouts should say that open source is the perfect tool to teach Boy Scouts … the value of collaboration.”

However, it is also worth noting that not everyone agrees that the values of the open source community are in line with those of the Boy Scouts: the article quotes Jon Hall of Linux International, who is somewhat disturbed by what he views to be a “paramilitary organization” that is closed to homosexual members, a stance he finds offensive – but he has decided that the benefits outweigh the downsides. Similar concerns are raised throughout the comments on the Slashdot post, though not always in such elegant terms, and as the wikipedia article notes, the Boy Scout membership policy is also criticized for prohibiting atheists and agnostics.


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Don Watkins » Blog Archive » A scout is trustworthy, brave and open sourced…
Jun 11, 2008 0:26

[...] Exciting news, the Boy Scouts of America have decided to openly support open source. I believe that open source software is the future and the Boy Scouts have an opportunity to provide an opportunity for young minds to utilize powerful tools that might lead to careers. The Boy Scouts have received a lot of bad press in recent years and some resent their para-military emphasis, but as a former Boy Scout I can also attest to the positive influence scouting had in my own life. Read more here. [...]

links for 2008-06-13 | Bieber Labs
Jun 13, 2008 6:37

[...] Wikinomics » Blog Archive » ‘Be Prepared’ goes open source: The Boy Scouts of America The Boy Scouts of America goes open source. (tags: boyscouts opensource) [...]

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