A few days ago I mentioned that my copy of Richard Gabriel’s Patterns of Software had briefly passed through my hands en route the next reader. One of the things that characterises a good book is the urge it places on the reader, the urge to delve into it again en passant, as it were, and acquiring something new in the process; in its own small way, it is akin to the revelation known and loved by Bible scholars as they dwell on scripture.
And so it was with Patterns of Software. I dug. And delved. And tried to find the passage I was looking for, one which Doc Searls quoted in Making a New World. And failed to find it.
Which was good in its own way, because it made me go and find my battered copy of Open Sources 2.0, in order to re-read Doc’s piece. Within which I found said passage. Richard Gabriel is quoted as saying “Habitability is the characteristic of source code that enables programmers coming to the code later in its life to understand its construction and intentions and to change it comfortably and confidently”. Wow.
Another random walk had begun. This time leafing through Open Sources 2.0. And as I read Making a New World again, I was drawn repeatedly to the following diagram, part of a mesmerising sequence, at least for me:
“There is an important difference, however, between open source commodities and those derived from raw materials (like wood or steel) that is harvested or mined. It’s a difference that will make the new, mature, software marketplace incalculably large.
The difference is this: open source commodities are produced by creative and resourceful human minds. Not by geology, biology, and botany. This means there is neither a limit to the number of open source products, nor a limit to the number of improvements.
Yet every one of those open source projects is concerned mostly with the improvement of their own products. While they care about how those products interoperate with other products, they can’t begin to account for all the combined possibilities where interoperation is required. That means there is room for businesses to test, certify and support combinations of open source products.“
That’s what blogs are for. To test, certify and support combinations of open source ideas.
To turn kernels into snowballs.
The blogosphere becomes the CollabNet, the SourceForge of ideas.
As Doc said, commoditisation is contribution. And we’re all in the business of building and certifying idea stacks.