Thursday, October 27, 2005

What is an Innovation Commons?

To listen to an audio blog by Paul Schumann on the innovation commons concept, click on the link below: (22:20 minutes, 21.4 mb)

If this file is too large for your system, you can order a CD by clicking here.


A team of students at the University of Texas at Austin is set to release a software tool designed to turn any Internet-connected computer into a TV station.

The software, called Alluvium, uses peer-to-peer technology to let people stream video to multiple users nonstop -- even without high-speed Internet connections. It's not just for tech enthusiasts and struggling artists, says Joseph T. Lopez, a graduate student who co-founded the software project. Alluvium, he says, could serve plenty of prosaic purposes -- like letting parents broadcast their childrens' soccer games for family members, or helping community groups find a high-tech alternative to public-access TV.

From article writtten by Brock Read, The Chronical

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Tuft of Flowers

I went to turn the grass after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be as he had been,---alone.

"As all must be," I said within my heart,
"Whether they work together or apart."

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a 'wildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o'er night,
Some resting flower of yesterday's delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flowers lay withering on the ground,

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook.

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a ready brook the scythe had bared.

I left my place to known them by their name,
Finding them butterfly weed when I came.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him,
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And felt spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him I worked as with his aid,
And, weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

"Men work together," I told him from the heart,
"Whether they work together or apart."

Robert Frost
The Tuft of Flowers
American Poetry, A. B. de Mille, Allyn & Bacon (1923)

I often pick up one of my books and open it randomly looking for insight or inspiration. I let my intuition choose the book. I open the book randomly (although some would say that the page I open it to is also chosen by my intuition). The other day I picked a book of poetry that had been one of my mother's. It was published in 1923 when my mother would have been 11.

The poem I found was one by Frost that I had no recollection of ever having read before. The application of the main message of the poem to the innovation commons is obvious. Whether we work together or apart, at the same time, or asynchronously, we all work together. The innovation commons is just trying to find clues as to how to make what is a fundamental truth practical.

There are other clues within the poem.

The first workman was skilled at his job. The cut was even and clean, so much so that the speaker listened for the sound of the whetstone used to sharpen the blade.

The speaker is on a hero's journey or quest described by Joseph Campbell. A messenger appears - the butterfly. The speaker is attentive and gets the message. However, as is often the case in life, attention is not paid to the messenger, and the message is lost. Intuition again?

The first workman practices non-attachment. He is completely aware as he works and discovers a patch of beauty. He leaves the beauty not for anyone else, or to draw attention to his role in the discovery of beauty, but just because they are beautiful and he wishes them to flourish.

Likewise in an innovation commons, participants must not become so attached to their creations that they hold them back, but rather let them go so that can flourish.

Remember the bumper sticker "Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty"? Practical types criticized it. I would rephrase this motto to "Practice intuitive acts of kindness and sagacious beauty."

I often discover tufts of beauty in my work - thoughts, ideas, constructs or insights left by someone who has worked the field before me. The discovery provides me with great joy. I feel connected with a fellow worker. And, I try to share how the new ideas are integrated into my thinking.

We work together,
Whether we work together or apart.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Innovation as Alchemy?

Innovation is the way of transforming the resources of an enterprise through the creativity of people into new resources and wealth.
Paul Schumann
Building an Innovative Enterprise

The proto-science of alchemy sought, among other things, a process to change "base metals" into gold. The tool thought to be the key to this process was called the "Philosopher's Stone."

In my new definition of innovation given above, it is innovation that transforms resources into new resources and wealth, and the equivalent of the "Philosopher's Stone" is the creativity of people.

The resources of an enterprise include people, capital, knowledge, strategic partners, equipment and tools, facilities and land and natural resources. And, an innovative enterprise, in pursuit of future opportunities or avoidance of future threats, uses the creativity of people, who are enabled with resources, to convert those resources into wealth. At the same time, the quest for innovation creates new resources.

Innovation does more than just make money for the innovators. Innovation creates true wealth. In the sense of the roots of the word, innovation improves the common weal. Everyone within the market, as well as society in general benefit from innovation. As a matter of fact, economists state that the social rate of return from innovation is greater than the private rate of return.

Innovation within an enterprise not only makes money for the enterprise, its employees and owners, it raises the level of economic prosperity in the community within which it operates.

Einstein's equation relating energy and mass is familiar to all, E=MC2. His theory, subsequently proven many times, provides the fundamental relationship between energy and mass with speed of light squared providing the linkage. This simple, but profound equation provided one of the steps to the alchemists' goals. It also provided the basis for nuclear fission and nuclear fusion as means for releasing vast amounts of energy.

By making the analogy I'm about to make, I'm not suggesting that this new definition of innovation is in any way close to the significance of Einstein's equation, but there are some similarities. The definition could be written W~RCi2. That is, wealth is proportional to the resources times the square of the creativity index of the enterprise. Now, I don't know for a fact that it is the square of the creativity. I do have the sense that creativity within an enterprise multiplies. Creativity begats more creativity.

Carrying the analogy one step further, like nuclear energy, innovation can come from fusion or fission (synthesis or analysis). And, while both create energy in nuclear processes, it is fusion that creates much, much, more energy (H-bomb vs. A-bomb). In my experience, synthesis creates more wealth than analysis.

An innovative enterprise creates a "virtuous cycle". A virtuous cycle is a condition in which a favorable circumstance or result gives rise to another that subsequently supports the first - in other words, a positive feedback system. In economics there is an assumption that a complex system will tend to a state of equilibrium. In non-equilibrium condition two cycles can be present - a virtuous cycle or a vicious cycle. A vicious cycle leads to decline and failure. A virtuous cycle leads to growth and wealth. The difference in an enterprise between a vicious and virtuous cycle is determined by the initial conditions, the innovation success rate and the percentage of resources reinvested in the creation of more innovation.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Meta Collab Wiki

Meta Collab is an open research, meta collaboration (a collaboration on collaboration) with the aim to explore the similarities and differences in the nature, methods and motivations of collaboration across any and every field of human endeavour.

Meta Collab’s primary objectives are to:
  • create a continuously developing repository of knowledge surrounding collaboration;
  • develop a community of researchers and individuals interested in furthering an understanding of collaboration; and to
  • work towards the development of a general theory of collaboration.


Wikiversity is a proposed project to create a university that will bring together a community of students and teachers by making use of wiki software.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Software for a Cause

Software for a Cause: Open Source Geeks and Nonprofits Gather at Texas Penguin Days to Make Better Software and the World a Better Place

Software developers, activists and nonprofits gather at Penguin Days ( in Austin and San Antonio to demystify open source software for social change.Penguin Days explore open source software for nonprofits and help socially-minded 'geeks' find ways to support public interest organizations.

According to Jon Lebkowsky of Polycot Consulting, a local organizer of Penguin Day Austin, "Texas nonprofit and Open Source communities are obvious partners, but they don't always make the connection. Penguin Day will demystify the technology for the nonprofit participants, and help bring those communities together."

Dean McCall with calls the event "One of the really great hidden secrets of the Open Source and Non Profit communities...with the rising cost associated with running a nonprofit it will really be a welcome treat to the San Antonio community!"

Katrin Verclas of Aspiration (, co-organizers of the national movement of Penguin Days, said, "Non-profit organizations are in need of specific software to manage volunteers, raise funds, and mobilize their constituents. Open source software can be less costly for these groups. We convene Penguin Days to challenge software developers to provide flexible and useful open source software. Penguin Days also empower nonprofits to communicate their needs and be active partners in the use of open source technology."

Open source software can be freely shared, distributed, and modified so that organizations can adapt software programs to suit their very specific needs.

Since 2004, Penguin Days have been held in Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon; London, England; Toronto, Canada, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. Hundreds of nonprofit staff, programmers, and activists have attended Penguin Days.

Penguin Days feature humorous "speed geeks" (modeled after speed-dating) to bring programmers and organizations together to change the world--one byte at a time. Organizers say that here is a growing group of programmers who are interested in making their skills and technical knowledge available for a cause.

The Penguin is the symbol adopted in the early days of Linux as the mascot of this growing software movement. Texas Penguin Days are scheduled in Austin on November 4 and San Antonio on November 5. Other upcoming Penguin Days are scheduled in Portland, Oregon on October 15 and in Montreal, Canada on November 20.

More information on Penguin Days is at

Registration for the Austin or San Antonio events at:

Austin (Ventana del Soul, 1834 E. Oltorf):

San Antonio (Urban 15, 2500 S. Presa):

The Texas Penguin Days are sponsored by Polycot Consulting, the Austin Community College Center for Community-Based and NonProfit Organizations, EFF-Austin and SalsaNet, and supported with in-kind support from local nonprofits and many volunteers.

About Aspiration: Aspiration, , connects nonprofit organizations with software solutions that help them better carry out their work. We want nonprofit organizations to obtain and use the best software to maximize their effectiveness and impact so that they, in
turn, can change the world. We identify what is available and what is missing in NGO software arena, and foster relationships, delivery systems, and sustainability strategies between NGOs around the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Power of Passion in a Networked World

We are moving to a more responsive, interactive, collaborative world, which is already disrupting conventional business models and releasing energies and new ways of doing things that create new solutions and opportunities. Personal interest, energy, passions, ideas and opinions - and little or no direct personal financial gain - are fuelling everything from Linux software to distributed computing in support of big science projects, to Wikipedia to blogs to indexed photo collections to and scientific publishing would appear to be next in line.
But, companies too can benefit from similar passion, if they respond effectively; as Lego found out recently. A group of its adult fans hacked into one of their design tools, but instead of shutting them out, the company welcomed them in: to collaborate and discuss options and ideas. Lego managed their boundaries and privacy flexibly to create committed pro-sumers. (see Hacking's a snap in Legoland;

Tim O'Reilly described the changes at the recent Web 2.0 conference "Web 2.0" stands for the idea that the Internet is evolving from a collection of static pages into a vehicle for software services, especially those that foster self-publishing, participation, and collaboration" (see Web 2.0 has arrived; Technology as one of the best illustrations is the difference between the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia. Other characteristics and indicative products of this new world can be found at What Is Web 2.0 (

Collaborative science projects using distributed desktop PC downtime to create sufficient computing power to support big projects, such as the project looking for life in outer space were an early example, back in 2000 (see Home computers add grunt to scientific discovery; (ABC)These were hotly followed by the development of Wikipedia in 2001 - which still has only one full time employee, but over 770,000 essays in English, nearly half a million contributors, 2 billion hits per month and is funded by donations.

Sheila Moorcroft, Research Director, Shaping Tomorrow

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm

by Yochai Benkler

For decades our understanding of economic production has been that individuals order their productive activities in one of two ways: either as employees in firms, following the directions of managers, or as individuals in markets, following price signals. This dichotomy was first identified in the early work of Nobel laureate Ronald Coase, and was developed most explicitly in the work of neo-institutional economist Oliver Williamson. In the past three or four years, public attention has focused on a fifteen-year-old social-economic phenomenon in the software development world. This phenomenon, called free software or open source software, involves thousands or even tens of thousands of programmers contributing to large and small scale project, where the central organizing principle is that the software remains free of most constraints on copying and use common to proprietary materials. No one "owns" the software in the traditional sense of being able to command how it is used or developed, or to control its disposition. The result is the emergence of a vibrant, innovative and productive collaboration, whose participants are not organized in firms and do not choose their projects in response to price signals.

In this paper I explain that while free software is highly visible, it is in fact only one example of a much broader social-economic phenomenon. I suggest that we are seeing is the broad and deep emergence of a new, third mode of production in the digitally networked environment. I call this mode "commons-based peer-production," to distinguish it from the property- and contract-based models of firms and markets. Its central characteristic is that groups of individuals successfully collaborate on large-scale projects following a diverse cluster of motivational drives and social signals, rather than either market prices or managerial commands.

The paper also explains why this mode has systematic advantages over markets and managerial hierarchies when the object of production is information or culture, and where the capital investment necessary for production-computers and communications capabilities-is widely distributed instead of concentrated. In particular, this mode of production is better than firms and markets for two reasons. First, it is better at identifying and assigning human capital to information and cultural production processes. In this regard, peer-production has an advantage in what I call "information opportunity cost." That is, it loses less information about who the best person for a given job might be than do either of the other two organizational modes. Second, there are substantial increasing returns to allow very larger clusters of potential contributors to interact with very large clusters of information resources in search of new projects and collaboration enterprises. Removing property and contract as the organizing principles of collaboration substantially reduces transaction costs involved in allowing these large clusters of potential contributors to review and select which resources to work on, for which projects, and with which collaborators. This results in allocation gains, that increase more than proportionately with the increase in the number of individuals and resources that are part of the system. The article concludes with an overview of how these models use a variety of technological and social strategies to overcome the collective action problems usually solved in managerial and market-based systems by property and contract.

Full Text (.pdf)

Wiki Wikis

From The Gurteen Knowledge Letter

There is a quiet revolution going on. If you thought Wikipedia was awesome then take a look at Wikibooks - open-source digital textbooks on any topic, in any language, available to anyone, anywhere, for free!


In the longer term, along with open access journals, this is really going to shake up the academic publishing world.

Open Access Journals:

And take a look at the Wikiversity Project - read the vision statement - the potential is enormous.


More on Wikibooks:

Jimmy Wales is the founder of Wikipedia which to my mind makes this video interview with him - complete with transcript - a must read.

How many full time employees? ONE!

How many page views per month? Two billion!

How is Wikipedia funded? Through donations!

The Interview:


For more about David Gurteen:

To subscribe to his excellent newsletter:

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Desent of Man

From Jim Ronay

You hear a lot about biodiversity and how certain species are dying out. Could the same be true with certain types of people?

Are we witnessing the end of intellectual diversity and the demise of the individual mind? We are fortunate enough to be alive during what is almost certainly a second renaissance. The first (16th century) renaissance was brought about by the clash and movement of ideas caused by the invention of moveable type and printing. This second renaissance is being caused by a clash of cultures and information, this time caused by globalization and the Internet. But where are all the renaissance men and women? The answer, it seems, is at work. One of the key features of the first renaissance is how disciplines, experience, technology and ideas cross-fertilized each other to create new knowledge. This requires freedom and intellectual promiscuity. Crucially, it also requires men and women who know a little about a lot. But we are stuck in an educational paradigm where people are rewarded for learning a lot about a little.

Ref: Technology Review (US), May 2005, ‘Whither the renaissance man?’, M. Hawley.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Types of Commons

From Gregg Edwards

Conflicted commons – established forces, inertia, institutional, inwardly focused
Pragmatic commons – recognition that trades can be made
Intellectual commons – legal, ethical, procedural
Creative commons – exchange, supportive of other structures
Imagination commons
Context making commons

Tuesday, October 4, 2005


Healthy communities, institutions and societies -- perhaps even our collective survival -- depend on our ability to organize our collective affairs more wisely, in tune with each other and nature.

This ability to wisely organize our lives together -- all of us being wiser together than any of us could be alone -- we call co-intelligence.

Co-intelligence is emerging through new developments in democracy, organizational development, collaborative processes, the Internet and systems sciences like ecology and complexity. Today millions of people are involved in co-creating co-intelligence. Our diverse efforts grow more effective as we discover we are part of a larger transformational enterprise, and as we learn together and from each other.

Visit the Co-Intelligence Institute web site.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Education and Community: The Collective Wisdom of Teachers, Parents and Community Members

Education seems to have become everyone's business. Everyone has a stake in education yet everyone doesn't have access to the educational process. Most frustrating has been the lack of real interaction between schools and their communities. Those schools that succeed all have a common thread: community involvement. Connecting all schools to their local communities in a viable way has been physically impossible. It is the contention of this paper that real connections between communities and schools can be made by the Internet. The Internet not only connects scholars in the schools to outside resources, but it also allows the community to observe the performance of its local scholars as telementors. Telementoring ultimately connects communities to their schools and creates more effective learning environments for all.

Ted Nellen