Open salad

April 18, 2008 § 2 Comments

Salad makes a perfect open source project. While most people think it’s a drag to produce a whole salad, it’s not so hard to get them to cough up one or two ingredients. The ingredients people contribute automagically turn out to be complimentary, most of the time. And, as more people contribute ingredients, the salad gets better and better. Yum.


So it is that that the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) has made its first foray into open source: a bi-weekly Open Salad Club.

The CSI is a shared workspace for social entrepreneurs and change agents located in a downtown Toronto warehouse. It’s home to about 100cdifferent organizations. The Shuttleworth Foundation‘s International Evangelism Unit (that’s me) is one amidst this multitude.


Every Tuesday and Thursday, about 20 CSI’ers throw an ingredient on the counter, mash it all up into an instant salad bar and nosh together. The rules for Open Salad Club, posted on a cafe table at CSI, are simple: “… each person brings two items that could conceivably go into a salad. Then we share. Your first trip to Salad Club is free.”

The culinary results a wonderful: fancy cheeses; tasty nuts; super fresh produce; all mixed up together. Some of the tastiest and most unique salads I’ve eaten in years. And, without the dreaded ‘what the heck am I going to bring for lunch today?’ crisis in the morning. Just grab whatever you’ve got in the fridge and go.




Of course, it’s the community vibe that really makes Open Salad Club rock. I’ve met (and learned the names of!) people I’ve been brushing past in the hallway for a year. And, my friend Marcia, who’s just taken up residence at the CSI (and just moved to Toronto) is still out there in cafe gabbing away with people. Building salad together is a quick path to meaningful relationships, it seems.

Important to remember: these community projects never come without trouble or controversy. There are already disputes over the name. Is it Open Salad? Or Salad Club? My strategy is to combine the two to avoid controversy, thus: Open Salad Club. Yet even this isn’t good enough. Rumour has it that the people at the Hub in London have forked the name again, setting up Sexy Salad on the same model.

There is also the question of whether Open Salad Club is an original idea or a derivative work. Eric Squair, who got this salad sharing rolling, claims the idea originated at Greenpeace. However, there is no concrete information online about the previous Greenpeace version or the license under which its rule set was released.


In any case, Open Salad Club is tasty, convenient and fun. It’s also one more example of ‘open’ being applied in novel and useful ways. Which, of course, makes it part of the case for open everything. More news, and maybe an Open Salad Club wiki, coming soon.

§ 2 Responses to Open salad

  • Hi there. I enjoyed reading about your Open Salad Club and the project is wonderful – but I have issues with the naming that have to do with the general “open everything” idea. I run CC in Poland and I look quite closely at the “commons” movement – which probably could also be called “open everything movement”. I think there is a danger of trying to hard to name everything “open” so that it fits into the broader scheme. And while that is good for the purpose of exemplification / evangelization, I think it’s not good on a day to day basis. A shared salad bar sounds wonderful, it has to do with community building, sharing, commons, you name it. But it’s not really open, and even more so any analogy to open source, for instance, will not work. So basically I think there are cool things that go well with the open / commons movement, like your salad project – own bread baking is another thing that comes to my mind and that I try to do, and which fits open source so well once you start exchanging yeast starters – but i don’t think we need to brand it so heavily as open.

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