Limpag: Open source and journalism-A A +A
Sunday, September 16, 2012
BY A happy coincidence, this year’s Software Freedom Day (SFD) was held on the eve of the Press Freedom Week opening. It was, in a way, symbolic of how one can lead to the other.
SFD is an annual, global gathering aimed at spreading awareness on free and open source software---applications released under a license that encourages sharing and collaboration.
In Cebu, SFD was celebrated last Saturday with a day-long event at the University of San Carlo-Technological Center. There were sessions on Firefox, PHP, WordPress, mobile and Android development. Top e-commerce site Sulit.com.ph talked about the open source components that run the highly popular website. I talked about how open source helps journalism.
Open source now dominates Philippine news online. Most websites of Philippine news
organizations are now run by open source content management systems (CMS), which are scripts used to manage digital content.
Sun.Star, Manila Bulletin and ABS-CBNNews.com are run by Drupal. Inquirer.net, Manila Standard Today, sections of Interaksyon, MindaNews and Tempo are run using WordPress.
Rappler, Business Mirror, The Manila Times, Malaya Business Insight, The Daily Tribune, Panay News and The Daily Guardian are run using Joomla.
It’s quite a reversal. Years ago, most sites were run either by third-party proprietary systems or else something that was built in-house.
Back then, campaigning for the transition to an open source CMS like Drupal was a long, arduous, lonely and at times frustrating effort, at least that was the case in my experience.
Many could not wrap their mind around the idea that something that was free and developed by a community and whose source code was just lying around ready for anyone to study or tinker with can be superior to a product developed by a person or company that you paid in hundreds of thousands of pesos.
But open source won in the end.
WordPress, the most popular open source CMS today, started as a blogging software but is now a full-fledged CMS. It now powers 16.7 percent of the world’s top one million websites. And from being a CMS, WordPress will, in the near future, be able to serve as backend for applications.
WordPress and the other open source CMSes and tools level the playing field for mainstream media and independent journalists. With open source, people now have access to tools that are as or even more powerful than those used by corporate media.
If you want to build your own news website today, you can quickly build a competitive system using various open source tools. If you want to serve content in other platforms like e-books, apps and mobile devices, the best tools are often free and open source software.
Open source helps fosters an environment that is conducive to independent media and journalism start-ups. Today, we are starting to see independent digital news operations coming out and doing well.
That trend will only increase as media consumption becomes increasingly digital and mobile. And the components powering the sites and services that will meet this demand for content are likely to be open source systems.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 17, 2012.