All the Cool Kids Use OSS

I’ve done enough posts in my time about open source software and how it is such a great fit for academics, especially writing teachers. I’ve written about implementing DrupalEd for my department’s composition program and even about the collection that Liz Monske and I are giving a final proofreading to now prior to sending it to what I hope is our last prospective publisher even as I write this, an edited collection with a very strong bias towards open source solutions for writing teachers who want to teach with technology. So, if you’re reading this and you’ve read my blog for some time, you know about open source. This post is for the new kids in the house–psssst—all the cool kids use open source software.

Oh yeah. They may not tell you this at first because they are the cool kids and they don’t have to think about how cool they are, but it’s true. They are on to the low to free cost ultimately infinitely customizable coolness that is open source. That’s why you don’t hear them kvetching about BlackBoard: they’re using Moodle. Blogging?Drupal and DrupalEd. Browsers? Firefox. Doing research? Try the Zotero beta version and its ability to sync. Graphics? Gimp (bit of a ramp up for users here, but Hey! Cool kids like to play with techy things).

While you’re complaining about Vista and the monolithic terror (and some say beauty) that is Microsoft Office, they are calmly enjoying complete compatibility with everyone using Open Office. Case in point, a colleague of mine who has stuck with Wordperfect over a long academic career wanted to send me a document and started to make the cringing sorry-sorry speech when I was able to say, no problem. Open Office will open it. I’m not sure he believes me, but that too, is part of the problem. People get so used to the nicks and jiggles that they have to do to survive in a proprietary-battle world that the open, sharing nature of open source can seem impossible. When I know I’m going into a situation where I need one of those alternate file formats such as when I present at a conference using someone else’s computer, I make sure I also have a .PPT file version on my USB drive. For my own use though and in my classes, Open Office files preferred. It also helps to be on a campus that respects open source: Firefox and Open Office are in all campus labs.

Hey! Let’s tell some other people so that there can be even more cool kids–visit the Open Source Carnival, opening soon at Kairosnews, which by the way, uses Drupal. See? The cool kids.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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