Friday, December 10, 2004

The Internet as an Innovation Commons

The Internet is often referred to as an innovation commons. Does it function as an innovation commons? Why or why not?


  1. I believe the Internet is a fabulous source of raw material for new ideas or potential solutions to problems (similar to the ideas or comments of musicians posted earlier); however, I have a hard time seeing it as a critical component of developing and refining complex ideas or solutions.

    The more powerful or complex the dream, idea, or solution, the less likely I am to want to share it, tweak it, or expose it over the Internet. The only exception would be a group such as this where I felt there were clear rules regarding use of information and verification of who the participants and viewers of the information might be. Even then, I would be reluctant to share my developing dreams and ideas to a group of people I have not met face to face. I need the personal contact for that. In fact, I find it difficult to participate in this dialogue without a similar face-to-face meeting happening at various points along the way!

    To me, the ideal way to use the Internet is as a bridge to begin the process (find participants), continue the dialogue, and build relationships. However the all-important TRUST necessary for truly sharing and opening myself to really HEAR and RESPECT the suggestions of others is best served by in person (or phone if that is impossible) contact in the beginning and at other key times in the process.

  2. Flattener # 4: Open Sourcing – Self-Organizing Collaborative Communities
    From The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

    For anyone interested in the concept of an innovation commons, The World is Flat is a must read. Here are a few quotes from this section of the book:

    “…I discovered it was an amazing universe of its own, with communities of online, come as you are volunteers who share their insights with one another and then offer it to the public for nothing. They do it because they want something the market doesn’t offer them; they do it for the psychic buzz that comes from creating a collective product that can beat something produced by giants like Microsoft or IBM, and – even more important – to earn the respect of their intellectual peers. Indeed, these guys and gals are one of the most interesting and controversial new forms of collaboration that have been facilitated by the flat world and are flattening it even more.” p83

    Quoting Bellendorf who was talking about the development of Apache: “We had a software project, but the coordination and direction were an emergent behavior based on whoever showed up and wanted to write code.” p 88

    Concurrent Versions System used to keep track of the software and its revisions. p88

    Still quoting Bellendorf, “We started with eight people who really trusted each other, and as new people showed up at the discussion forum and offered patch files posted to the discussion forum, we would gain trust in others, and that eight grew to over one thousand.” p88

    “The Apache collaborators did not set out to make free software. They set out to solve a common problem – web serving – and found that collaborating for free was the best way to assemble the best brains for the job that needed to be doe.” p90

    Quoting Swainson about the involvement of IBM in the project: “The Apache people were not interested in payment of cash. Thye wanted contribution to the base.” p90

    Quoting Irving Wladawsky-Berger from IBM: “This emerging era is characterized by the collaborative innovation of many people working in gifted communities, just as innovation in the industrial era was characterized by individual genius.” p 93

    “The striking thing about the intellectual commons form of open sourcing is how quickly it has morphed into other spheres and spawned other self organizing collaborative communities, which are flattening hierarchies in their areas.” p93

    Talking about an open commons: “These bloggers have created their own online commons, with no barriers to entry. That open commons often has many rumors and wild allegations swirling in it. Because no one is in charge, standards of practice vary wildly, and some are downright irresponsible. But, because no one is in charge, information flows with total freedom.” p 93-94

    “If everyone contributes his or her intellectual capital for free, where will the resources for new innovation come from?” p96

    “How do you push innovation forward if everyone is working for free and giving away their work?” p 100

    “Open source is an important flattener because it makes available for free many tools, from software to encyclopedias, that millions of people around the world would have to buy in order to use, and because open source network associations – with their open borders and come as you are approach – can challenge hierarchical structures with a horizontal model of innovation that is clearly working in a number of areas…This movement is not going away. Indeed, it may just be getting started – with a huge, growing appetite that could apply to many industries. As The Economist mused (June 10, 2004), ‘some zealots even argue that the open source approach represents a new post-capitalist model of production.’

    That may prove true. But if it does, then we have some huge global governance issues to sort out over who owns what and how individuals and companies will profit form their creations.” p 102-103


  3. Inventing the Innovation Commons

    "The Internet is both the result of and the enabling infrastructure for new ways of organizing collective action via communication technology. This new social contract enables the creation and maintenance of public goods, a commons for knowledge resources."

    "Before the word "hacker" was misappropriated to describe people who break into computer systems, the term was coined (in the early 1960s) to describe people who create computer systems. The first people to call themselves hackers were loyal to an informal social contract called "the hacker ethic." As Steven Levy described it, this ethic include these principles:

     Access to computers should be unlimited and total.
     Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative
     All information should be free.
     Mistrust authority - promote decentralization."

    Howard Rheingold
    Smart Mobs
    Basic Books, 2002