The four kinds of freedom of free knowledge

By Ismael Peña-López
ICTlogy (ISSN 1886-5208). Issue #1, October 2003


I’ll surely write some more posts about this article: Connecting Learning Objects with RSS, Trackback and Weblogs. So far only a few reflexions.

First. About RSS and me

This has been a good start for me going into RSS stuff. A couple of weeks ago I wondered about having my own blog. Today I’m not (of course) an expert but think I’ve learnt a whole world unknown to me about real knowledge management in the most informal – but practical – way.

Second. About RSS and content management

I do have to explore all the implications of using RSS at the content management and the cooperation for development levels. Alan, Brian and D’Arcy‘s approach is easy to be reconsidered in a much wider scope.

Though it is said that the Internet eases information sharing, since now, you had to gather a bunch of links so all the content in the web seemed to be a continuum. Indeed, copy-pasting is yet a far to be abandoned technique to feed one’s site. This was information sharing (I won’t talk about real examples of information sharing… and selling).

RSS makes me think of the end of (simply) linking and the definitive end of copy-pasting. And the so awaited collusion of information (and knowledge) into a whole.

Third. RSS and development

Knowledge management is one of these words you happen to hear or read all of the time. Thus, let’s talk about it here: what about knowledge management here and development?

If free software gains from always adding up “content” (code, features, etc.) to the existing one, I guess that real syndication would make this real for web content. The core thing is really adding up content by syndication. The article’s example is quite simple but last slides show the door you should knock at to enter a new way of sharing knowledge: no more retyping, no more linking, no more crossnavigating. The navigator does not more travels to content but content to navigator… at his or her own request. And this is GREAT.

And this is the reason e-learning is not self-teaching: e-learner is active but it’s e-teacher’s commitment to ease his path to knowledge. In this framework I do believe RSS improves the e-learning system.

Hey, but wasn’t I talking about development? I am! Back to the free software example: I think that XML and RSS allow or empower the four kinds of free knowledge:

Fourth. The four kinds of free knowledge

Let me adapt the GNU project definition of the four kinds of freedom of free software:

  • The freedom to use the knowledge, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the knowledge applies, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source information is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute knowledge so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to improve the knowledge, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source information is a precondition for this.

And man, this is cooperation and this is development. Comments against will be grateful welcome ;)

Swear I’ll rethink about it…

I’ll surely be publishing about some of the very interesting links in the presentation.

BTW, the presentation is sooo well done… :O :)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2003) “The four kinds of freedom of free knowledge” In ICTlogy, #1, October 2003. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from

7 Comments to “The four kinds of freedom of free knowledge” »

  1. Thanks for the kind words about the presentation. The fun part was how quickly it evolved. Last January I knew RSS was an acronym and a month later I had wrapped it completely into our MLX site, and things exploded from there.

    A key thing is the abilty for users to select the content that matters to them.

    IN fact the whole process happened because of the available free tools and knowledge out there.

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  3. Ismael, thanks for the feedback on the presentation! It does seem like it just keeps on going, having a life of its own… ;-)

    The cool thing about RSS, once you stop thinking about it as a news-feed-distributor, is that it provides an easy-peasy way for people (well, people through software) to share sets of stuff. It doesn’t matter what that stuff is, or how it was created, or how it may be used. It’s just stuff…

    Repurposing that stuff in ways that wasn’t conceived of by the creators of that stuff – that’s where the excitement begins…

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  5. As I reviewed your site, I found this is interesting that you defines the 4 kinds of freedom of free knowledge. We are doing the same reserching in sharing the knowledge.

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