How do I explain open source best to non dev people?

For a piece I'm writing, I need to explain aspects of open-source code to normal people.
I cant seem to find a list of well-known open source projects.
Most people don't know what Eclipse, Linux and such are.

Is there a way to explain it to non-Dev people, with examples they'd know?
Which movies have had dozens of writers! ?  

beavoidSelf EmployedAsked:
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Scott SilvaNetwork AdministratorCommented:
How about comparing open source to a community garden... Many people work on it, and they all share the results... Some are so successful they share the bounty with people that didn't even work in the garden...

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beavoidSelf EmployedAuthor Commented:

You could use that, but I think it is quite misleading.

Open Source does not itself imply that others can 'play in your garden' - it means that the source code is open to view by others (maybe only customers, maybe a set of third parties, maybe anyone).  The code can be proprietary and owned (copyrighted?) but still be Open Source.

What is being described above is more a description of Free / Libre software.

I think it is important to carefully distinguish between the two as a lot of people don't understand the differences.

nociSoftware EngineerCommented:
It can be a community garden where people work together.
Another one can be a craftsman shop, where everyone can see how the craftsman works en builds stuff, and study all details.
But you are not allowed to make the SAME things.., just watch how stuff is done.  (RHEL)   and you may build your own example from it (CentOS) with sufficient changes.

Most importantly Open Source enables anyone to continue the software service they bought into, even if the original provider abandons it or goes belly up. Also it enables the user to verify claims (or get claims verified) independent from the supplier.
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