Unleashing the power of the collective
I'm a Dave Winer Coffee Notes and Adam Curry DSC listener. As I witness in amazement the rapid evolution of Adam's core iPodder idea I've been giving quite a bit of thought about how Open Source Developers are in effect individually financing what will at some point (seems inevitable) will become part of a more formal commercial enterprise.
This line of thinking, built in part on Dave Winer's comment about "the link being an elemental part of the web" has led me to conclude that the web/internet/global electronic network i.e. "the link" is a highly efficient means by which the value of ideas can be quantified very soon after their initial gestation from thought to code (machine or otherwise).
Modern corporate law is largely a reflection of the need historically (industrial revolution) to amass large pools of capital needed to see an idea through to its physical manifestation. Today I think one of the fundamental shifts that result form electronic communication and production (production=coding?) is that, from an economic point of view, we can now begin to gauge the economic value of an idea soon after it is manifested by efficiently (i.e. electronically) measuring it's impact by measuring the community activity around it....One tangible example is the source code developed around a core idea (iPodder is a current example).
Isn't this at it's core a concept that strongly aligns with the interests of open sourcer's?
Doesn't it imply a shift to thinking about Open Sourcer's as an inherently different mode of production? A means of production whose economic contribution, flows not from the ability of a group of manager's to organize toward a center, but from a realization that each coder/mode is valuable to the degree that they are free thinking and self-managing (in the sense that they select and organize their resources (coding insight etc) most efficiently away from the management center.
I frankly don't know if this is a new concept...probably not. But as I don't hear much about it I feel compelled to reach the Open Source Community (I've tried to get through to Adam and Dave but they are no doubt way too busy with all the stuff they have going on) because I think THIS SHOULD BE part of the dialogue around open source.
Because, if the Open Source community can build a system that provides mechanisms for quantifying the activity around the development of a concept AS it gather's steam that ability will allow them, I believe, the ability to leverage that activity to attract funding at a very early stage and in a form that I believe will support the distributed and open attributes that Open Sources seem to value most.
Today that funding seems to flow from developer's tangential economic activities, if that is so, wouldn't it be desirable to create a system that would allow these individuals to focus more of their energy on the projects that they love in a way that wouldn't constrain them in say a corporate centralized structure?
From a very practical perspective I view the first manifestation of this concept around a two prongs, one is how to measure an online communities activity around a new concept (I'm thinking iPodder is a great case study) and two, the development of a hybrid micro-lending institution, that would allow Open Sources developers to both deposit funds and draw funds based on their activities in a given Open Source Project.
....that's a VERY rough sketch.
I listened to Kim Polese on the Gilmore Gang recently and while her company sounds promising it do not address the economics that are to drive the early development of in her words "stacks." If Open Source is a new model for development (rhetorical question), then I believe we must begin to understand the economics of this new mode of production from inception to implementation. I believe this particularly important to organizations that seek to "live off of" the early phase development that occurs before code is made "consumable" by large economic entitites.