On the PC this topic is quite popular. Especially if you're a heavy computer user and not just a typical user you know the difference between open and closed. A typical indicator for open is Linux, a typical indicator for closed is Microsoft. I didn't used the word "software" because hardware can be open or closed too. (who don't know apple)
This is now a big topic and difficult to explain. I'm sure i can't explain it too, but i'll give a try. I also want to keep this topic quite short. I'll try just to make an overview of what open and closed means to me, but it dosn't mean it belongs to others.
I was a windows user fo a long time and i never had big problems with it. The reason why i switched to Linux was because it got boring. I wanted to get an deeper understanding in how a operating system works and that wasn't possible with windows. The reason why i decided to use gentoo is another story.
The short explanation is: First i wanted to try out some distributions. Debian, Slackware, Fedora, OpenSuse and Gentoo where on my list. Once i started to download all the live-cds the gentoo-cd had just about 50MB and was finished first. So i could try it out first. I have to say, i loved the way to install it, even if i nearly didn't understand anything from the installation manual. But if you do it like its written there, it will work without any problems. After my succesfull installation i didn't wanted to try out any other distributions anymore.
Compared to windows, linux is much more open. Not just because the sourcecode is available. You also have much more freedom to change things to your need. Especially on gentoo you have even more freedom. The gap between windows and gentoo is big. Very big. But this freedom makes linux also very vulnerable. Not just because of bugs, also because of wrong configurated or over-optimized systems (in gentoo's case). While it's easy to make a gentoo "useless" it's much more difficult on windows (without a virus ;). It's also possible to misconfigure windows, but windows hides such configurations for a normal user. Futhermore, big software corporations like Microsoft trying to hide their bugs in order to show customer how good their product are and how few bugs they have. In opensource software noone can hide his faults, so it looks like opensource have much more bugs. But this openess is also good. Bugs can be solved much faster than in closed source software.
For me open means to have the freedom to change things to your need, to try out new things even if it's not healthy for your system, to see how things are working and have the opportunity to make it better. Since i've started with gentoo, i've tried out many things and all my systems are now very special. I almost go away from the usually installation way, in order to try out new things. For that freedom i love linux and especially gentoo, even it it means to solve big problems sometimes.
While this topic is common on the PC i found out it also fits into other parts in our life. For example to our personality. I realized that i'm the biggest betrayer to myself. Everyone can be an open or an closed person and while i've tried to spread opensource on the PC i found out my personality is very closed. I guess the reason is the same like on the PC. I'll try to hide my mistakes and problems in order to give no one a chance to hurt me.
Well, while a windows-kernel couldn't work in a gnu-enviroment, it also cannot work for me. I definitely have to change myself...