Random musings on opensource

As you would expect, I spent a lot of time with my wife and children over the Easter break. And then stayed up to watch the golf. When I wasn’t doing either of these things, I was catching up on my reading.

Dan Farber’s True Nature Of Open Source post got me thinking. Go take a look yourself, Between The Lines is a place I visit regularly; in fact I read most of the ZDNet bloggers pretty often.

Dan ends with the following:

Economics don’t favor pure open source. The future is hybrids–cars, software, people, pets. It’s better for the planet…

And that’s what set me thinking. As usual, I’m sharing that thinking with you, in the knowledge it is provisional and only-partially-formed. For the sake of brevity I’m making this a bullet-point list. [Yes even I can be brief sometimes!]

1. Economics can favour opensource. Commodity economics, based on scarcity, does not. But gift economics, based on abundance, can and does favour opensource. There’s a lot we have to learn about the economics of abundance. It is at the heart of Doc Searls’ Because Effect; it connects Stallman and Raymond and Torvalds to Brand and even Garcia.

2. Gift economics relies, to quite an extent, on delayed gratification. The same delayed gratification that is at the heart of Daniel Goleman‘s Emotional Intelligence work. The same human capacity that engenders the perseverance that characterises so much of innovation, of invention. For that matter, the same human capacity that allows people to have faith.

3. The willingness to accept delayed gratification (besides being central to Goleman’s themes) is critical to building community, to engendering teamwork and collaboration. Communities are defined by their shared purposes, their treasures in heaven. They evolve and grow despite their differences, held together by their common goals. I would go so far as to say they evolve and grow because of their differences, they learn more from the differences than from the similarities. But they stick together because of their shared vision.

4. Teamwork and collaboration are essential for the success of any 21st century organisation. Collaboration within the enterprise, collaboration across the supply chain, collaboration across the customer chain. Collaboration with the customer.

5. Opensource connects the customer with the coder in different and powerful ways. Transparency of demand and supply. The impact of Linus’s Law. True future-proofing. The wisdom of crowds. Evolution of software as a result of natural selection, driven by open market adoption rather than the slave trade of vendor-locks. [If you think about it, vendor-locks are really a form of slavery].

So for me there is a golden thread that links opensource with abundance with delayed gratification with collaboration and teamwork all the way to co-creation of value with the customer. All economically sound, just not scarcity-economy sound.

What Dan says about opensource is true, but we must understand why before we can make the right calls. I will post separately about the inevitability of hybrids.

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