Open-Source Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski

Technology and techniques are trade secrets, at first slow to spread and evolve. With the advent of printing, knowledge was spread far and wide. Craftsmen in one place were aware of better practices and tools in distant lands and added them to their knowledge and toolbox.
Then came the invention of “intellectual property”. Patents hindered the copying of an idea or invention (in principle to ensure the exclusive benefit of its creator). But ideas also became publicly known. People could build their own ideas based on it. I don't think it is a coincidence that such things coincided with the Industrial Revolution and the rise of Capital. Universal knowledge is still possible, but for the consumer, we entered an Age of the Proprietary. The average person and company are beholden to certain suppliers and licenses.

Perhaps because our secrets are symbolic, Freemasonry seems unaffected by these social and economic changes. Sure, there are printed volumes from Masonic writers far and wide, but few consider them integral to cultivating our Art. Perhaps it's because we each have our own Constitutions and interpretation of Landmarks. Masons can travel and experience variations in Ritual and tradition, but most of us live and work in the confines of local quarries.
Then came the Internet and social media. Without going through Grand Secretaries or district associations, we have prolific Masonic intercourse with Brothers around the world. We share ideas and experiences. And vive la différence! Our differences give us a much deeper understanding of Freemasonry as a whole. It gives us new ideas, new programs, new inspiration of all kinds.

But we can take this further. For a generation now, there’s been a new paradigm -- open-source software. People freely contribute and build upon code, design, and functionality. We don't need a specialized platform to have a Masonic website -- tons of software is out there, mostly free. If I build you a website, for example, you can take it somewhere else and add or remove whatever you like, either yourself or a million other people who know the software. You’re not beholden to me.

Imagine membership software anyone could use and customize to fit their exact needs. Imagine jurisdictions controlling their own data in-house. Some already do this to some extent. But imagine if anyone could contribute functionality that others could use, instead of being beholden to one company to develop and roll out as a feature. There’s little expense in building and maintaining their own system using this model.

But let’s apply this to more than zeroes and ones -- to programs, flyers and graphics, budgets, bylaws, and management processes. In New York, we have the 24-Inch-Guage, which is a start, but how about a repository across jurisdictions? Imagine Masons everywhere freely sharing and contributing ideas and resources.

This isn’t a pie in the sky. Someone, somewhere, will build a digital Library of Alexandria for our Craft and perhaps fraternal organizations in general. We only need to find and support artificers for this grand purpose.

Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.

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