Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Critical Look at Open Source Innovation

Open Source is great—there is no doubt that when a source-code (say, LINUX) is opened up to a global network of interested parties, then those parties make quick work of fixing bugs and making minor improvements. Same thing with FireFox, OpenOffice, etc. But is the open-source model capable of spawning the very innovation that led to the operating system, the “office” application or the web browser? How many of the open source products currently available are a first-generation innovation? Aren’t they all just a free and less bug-ridden version of something that was first developed under the umbrella of intellectual property rights? If we didn’t have intellectual property laws, would we still have the kind of fundamental innovation that defines our world—and, for utopianists, give us the hope of a Star-Trek future where technology has solved all of our problems?


Regardless of whether you listen to proponents of free markets, intellectual property rights, the capitalist system, you will hear essentially one explanation for our success: ownership. In fact, listen to the right politicians and you may even hear that we can solve our problems by “increasing ownership.” But what does this mean? The basic argument is this: there is a causal relationship between the level of ownership of an innovation with the level of innovation. You will hear the argument that if people don’t own the results of their innovation, and aren’t free to profit from their work, that there will be a sharp decrease in the rate of innovation. If musicians don’t own their songs and can’t effectively control their sale, then you won’t get as much good music. If software developers or movie makers can’t reap the rewards of their innovation, then you won’t get the same level of innovation in new applications or movies. Such advocates cite the critical link between the abstract ownership of such “intellectual property” and the prosperity and welfare of our society. Even the most hardened Open Source advocate has to admit that there is some superficial logic there…


After all, what has open-source really achieved? Can its innovations be compared in any way to those of the capitalist, ownership economy? Capitalism (or some hybrid of capitalism and the military-industrial complex) brought us virtually every significant application or operating system in existence today. Open Source made them less bug-ridden, sometimes more compatible or user friendly…not exactly innovations on par with the original. Capitalism brought us Brittney Spears and “Diddy”…OK, so brush aside the sarcasm and try to name a musician who has contributed more to our modern culture through Open Source methods—recognizing that if you can’t that’s a pretty bad sign. Same with cinema—sure, www.homestarrunner.com is semi-open source in that it’s at least distributed for free, but even that contains an assertion of ownership. It’s not looking like Open Source is going to win the innovation debate…


In my last post I presented a slightly sarcastic critique of the fallacy that correlation doesn’t equal causation. There is a strong correlation between ownership-based societies and innovation—one argument is that the Cold War ended because, absent innovation, the Soviet Union just couldn’t keep up. You can certainly correlate that lack of innovation with a lack of ownership. The traditional opposition to ownership-based systems has come in the form of some hierarchal model of centralized planning like Communism. Perhaps this is the weak link in the otherwise solid argument that ownership is necessary for innovation: capitalist systems exhibit more than just ownership—they also are far less hierarchal than the traditional comparison of the old USSR. While the US economy is still based on hierarchy, it is many smaller, competing hierarchies at play, compared to the single and unified hierarchy of a centrally-planned economy. So let’s embrace our fallacy for a moment: there is definitely a correlation between less hierarchy and more innovation—is this also a cause?


The polar opposite of the structure of hierarchy is rhizome, a network of independent and interconnected nodes. As a system with far less hierarchy than our current system, is there also a great potential for open-source innovation in rhizome? Ultimately, can a rhizome structure create the same system of rewards that likely leads to innovation in our capitalist, ownership-based society? The short answer: no. However, rhizome has demonstrated its ability to spark innovation as rapid or more rapid than ownership-based capitalism—the difference, however, is a fundamental one: rhizome innovation is not achieved by one or many individuals, but is rather an emergent phenomenon of their collective interaction. This is a fundamental difference, for not only is rhizome innovation not dependent on an ownership-system, it is also fundamentally impossible to be owned.


Understanding emergent innovation requires at least a superficial understanding of innovation—and I say “superficial” not to suggest that the reader is incapable of a greater understanding, but because at this point science does not fully understand how emergence works. What is understood is that for some reason the interaction between independent nodes creates something that is greater than the sum of its parts: emergence. Take the human brain, for example: billions of independent but interconnected neurons communicating back in forth somehow produce the emergent qualities of intelligence, consciousness, and imagination. Even though computer “brains” have been assembled with far more transistors than the human brain has neurons, they appear to be fundamentally incapable of replicating these most basic capabilities of the human brain. This is probably because they are organized in a hierarchal manner, not in the independent but interconnected manner of the human brain. It is for this reason that hierarchy cannot utilize emergent innovation, whereas rhizome structures can.


The current situation in Iraq is an example of emergent innovation in direct competition with hierarchal, ownership-based innovation. The ownership and reward environment in Iraq by the US forces and Iraqi government is qualitatively similar to that in the US economy: there are individual actors assigned to “innovate” solutions to the military and political problems there (such as a close friend who works for the Air Force Test and Evaluation Center, who is trying to solve the problem of improvised explosive devices), and there is an ample award system—both for military members and for capitalist defense contractors—should any of these individuals or groups of individuals innovate a useful solution. On the other side of the equation there is a largely rhizome-structured resistance that lacks the ownership or reward system for their innovation. Non-the-less, this semi-rhizome resistance has benefited from the phenomenon of emergent innovation to keep pace with, and by some estimates out-innovate the hierarchal occupying forces and transitional government. The struggle in Iraq is worth studying perhaps more for this battle of hierarchal vs. rhizome innovation than for the more immediate geopolitical impacts.


Returning to the more general theme of “Open Source Innovation,” where do we stand? It is my opinion that Open Source innovation is a broad failure when compared to capitalist, ownership-based innovation. This is largely because Open Source innovation has framed the conflict according to the rules and assumptions developed by the capitalist, ownership-based innovators. If, however, the Open Source movement recognizes that its strength lies with its potentially rhizome structure, and if it leverages that strength to compete on a diagonal rather than in a head to head battle, then the emergent innovation of rhizome will prove to be more capable than the ownership-based innovation of capitalism. And perhaps most importantly, if it is successful the innovations of rhizome will be fundamentally un-ownable: they will provide an egalitarian benefit for all that will help to affect a gradual societal transition towards rhizome structure as a whole.

23 comments:

Disillusioned kid said...

Jeff,

Blogger has a comment verification thingy which you can activate in the settings area which ought to get rid of spam like the above. (Interesting article BTW.)

Kurt L. said...

Although I find much that I agree with in this posting, I do have to take issue with this example: try to name a musician who has contributed more to our modern culture through Open Source methods.

In fact there is a huge body of music that falls under this category: some call it traditional music, some call it folk music, some call it ethnic. And for many, myself included, it rivals or surpasses anything put out by the so-called music industry. Consider, for example, traditional dance tunes: they are in essence, Open Source: anyone can choose to learn one, the source is found in books and in live tradition, and they are constantly being polished, slightly improved upon, renamed, and joined together in varying combinations. (Obligatory fiddle joke: how do you tell fiddle tunes apart from one another? Answer: they have different titles).

By the standards of the commercial world, traditional dance bands are abject failures, as are Open Source software projects: few people, if any, are getting rich off them, or even making a living. Yet both disciplines inspire a devoted cadre of practitioners, and neither is going away soon.

Kurt L. (host of "Lark in the Morning" traditional folk music program on Friday mornings, www.kboo.fm)

Devin said...

Kurt --

I think you unwittingly prove his point. Can you name a single musician that has contributed more to the modern culture through Open-Source methods? The folk music you speak of is, in essence, an emergent phenomenon. There is no single contributor to emergent phenomena. Thus, it will be much more difficult to name a single folk musician who has contributed more than any other to folk music. Contrast this with Madonna and pop, and so on. There is a definite difference there.

Alex Gregory said...

Jeff,

Nice post.

However, I'm not sure that your charaterisation of the open-source movement is quite fair. As far as I understand it, corporate owned computer software came after, not before, open-source software. The internet itself, for example, was the result of coordinated independent actions, not some top-down organisation.

My knowledge of the area is a little shady (perhaps a trip to wikipedia is in order) but I'm fairly certain that the claim that the open-source community fails to innovate is false.

vladi said...

Intriguing and inspiring post. I am somewhere in the middle between your point and those made by advocates of open source software and open stuff in general.
What I would like to point out is that we could be misguided in thinking about OSS or CC licensing arrangements as anti-ownership. Think about Creative Commons: they do not want to get rid of intellectual property. They, indeed, affirm intellectual property, and provide an author or creator with the option of discriminating between ways of obtaining revenues from their work.
I mean: CC as applied to music do not sanction the end of property over the work. They, on the contrary, represent a pragmatic perspective on revenue creation and management in front of new dynamics and phenomena which make it difficult to prosper on the sale of records alone (be it P2P or whatever).
And again: do you really think innovation in music (just to make an example) is Britney? Real R&D in music is made by people who discover talented guys playing in bars and garages. Britney is not innovative in the sense that she is an answer of the music biz to the increased competition over the marketplace. I want a huge best seller with commercial appeal, that is the attitude. But try and look for these guys: Artic Monkeys. They really did it open source-like. And they are making money, it seems.
I look forward to reading further replies. Congratulations on the post and on the discussion it will stimulate (and it has already started).

Jeff Vail said...

It's a sticky point, but I'll assert that most computer applications, hardware innovations and the internet are really the result of subsidized innovation by the military-industrial complex. You could argue that the entire computer revolution arose out of the need to calculate artillery tables quickly and accurately, with encryption/decryption following a close second. Either way, I think that these innovations fall more into the category of ownership/capitalism than into the category of Open Source. Even though they normally came from academic environments or "think tanks" without clear ownership motives, these environments were the direct result of government funding, government ownership (normally asserted through classification of information, not copyright). This eventually transitioned to a more business-centered ownership model as businesses increasingly latched on to the Cold War defense gravy-train.

In the end, all this government involvement muddies the analysis of Ownership v. Open Source. For that reason, the world of music may be a better example of the two competing theories because there is far less government interference than there is with any defense-related technology. And on that note, no, I do not think that Britney is much of an innovator--but her management team clearly was, measured purely by their ability to generate such impressive profits.

I would argue that the development of rap music is a very good case study: this was by any measure a revolutionary innovation. It was, arguably, a phenomena that emerged out of certain social groupings... but how much of this innovation is attributable to social emergence, and how much of it is due to the incentive of ownership-based financial rewards? I don't think that there is much argument against the position that the current rap-music industry is fueled by ownership-based financial rewards, but was this true at the very beginning, the first few true innovators that developed this new form?

I am certainly no expert on the development of rap, but I have a hunch that it was not initially based on theories of ownership and financial reward. I do not, however, think that it was the result of today's version of "Open Source" innovation--I think that it was more an example of emergent innovation from the rhizome-like social environment in poor black ghettos in New York, Los Angeles and other marginalized urban areas?

Sal said...

"If we didn’t have intellectual property laws, would we still have the kind of fundamental innovation that defines our world?"

Your questions have conditions embedded in them which presuppose the answer. No, of course the lack of IP would not give us the same kind of innovation. Would it be fundamental innovation though? Yes, it would, but it certainly would not lead to a world that IP innovation defined. The real questions are whether it would innovate faster or slower than the present arrangement and whether this innovation would lead us towards meaningful objectives.

"try to name a musician who has contributed more to our modern culture through Open Source methods"

The one person who contributed more to modern software through open source methods is Linus Torvalds. But that's beside the point. The lack of such an individual does not mean that the field in which open source operates is lacking. This question too, is measuring with the IP yardstick. The inability to point to a figurehead in a crowd says nothing about the crowd's achievement.

Debate over IP is stifled by those who benefit from it. In truth, there is no such thing as "intellectual property". Polluting this debate by confusing rights to innovation intended for the purpose of promoting progress in science and the useful arts with personal property rights intended to protect one's free use, enjoyment, and disposal of one's acquisitions, benefits those who stand to lose if scrutinized against IP law's objective.

The real debate is not whether to IP or open source, but how much IP protection is really needed within an otherwise naturally open source system to offer the best incentive for the progress of science and the useful arts.

Anonymous said...

One point:

To expand on Kurt's post - folk music or the so called 'world music' is a phenomenon where there is no such thing as 'individual creators'. Also, it is not an emerging phenomenon, at least not in the sense thzat it is something recent. Balkan folk music or gypsy music for example dont recognize any such thing as authorship or intellectual property. They recognize tunes and their interpreters. And so music bands are graded not by their so called 'authorship' of so called 'original content' but rather by their ability to manipulate the existing tunes and infuse them with new power. Its the art of remixing as practiced for hundreds upon hundreds of years. And so, for example, Ivo Papasov of Bulgaria (a virtuoso clarinet player) is considered a genius not because he sold lots of records and made money (he didnt) but because he was the first to fuse traditional balkan and gypsy tunes with jazz. Same can be said for absolutely every strong folk music tradition around the planet - from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan from Pakistan to Ali Hasan Kuban from Sudan to Mikis Teodorakis in Greece. The argument that it is only the american corporate music market that innovates is just breathtakingly ignorant of the realities anywhere else (or at least ignorant of the absolute majority of music that is being listedned on the planet).

gulfie said...

A few points:

'one person': As mentioned. Naming one person that has done X. Hierarchys are named, or have figureheads with names. In the music industry the hierarchies magnify this effect. The leaders and owners of the hierarchies, I.E. Andrew Lack, or Edgar Miles Bronfman, Jr. almost no one outside of the buisness press has heard of.

It takes large agregations of power to or tremendious noteriety/skill to lift someone to the level of Britney Spears, M.C. Hammer, or Vanilla Ice. Hierarchies are very effective at this sort of thing.


Conflating hierarchy with agregation. It is true that they go together often, but they are different. Many of the rewards tipicly attributed to hierarchy are simply arived at through agregation.



But what of this hallowed 'ownership'? It's funny because there are types of ownership that are not expressed in dollars. Ask any good hired herdsman about 'their' livestock. This and many other trades tend to have people in them, often the people who do good work, who take a partial ownership in what they are doing, even if there is no monitary or legal notice of it.

Often you can get steelworkers to talk about the buildings and bridges they have build, their buildings and their bridges.

Teachers and students can share a similar bond.

The idea that the only reward that could exist must be monitary is false.




Components of innovation:
1) a problem
2) material to gamble on a solution
3) time/brains to gamble on a solution
4) some reward for solving the problem



As far as problems. Agregations make lots of them to solve. Sewage in farming is a great exmaple. One cow in a field produces just as much waste as cow in feed lot with 1000 of his closest friends. The sewage is only a problem when the density crosses the ability of the local enviroment to deal with it.

Resources are often freed up when economies of scale kick in. With large agregations specialization becomes possible. These are features of agregation not hierarchy.

Hierarchies, like there alternatives cause technical problems to solve. Large fractions of our communications infrastructure was built so that the thinking parts of hierarchies could stay in touch with the doing parts of themselves.


So talking about innovations 4 parts. A problem, material, brains/time and reward. Large classes of problems it take large agregation of material and brains/time to solve. For example gas jet propulsion, or steel ship construction.

Currently only capitalist hierarchies and hierarchical but theoreticly responsible to the populace governmental organizations have had the resources to gamble on solutions, or the development of ideas into production solutions. It may have only taken one person to come up with the idea of splitting the atom, it took thousands to productize that idea into something usable.

In general OSS has sprung forth from a soil of not so much material, but plenty of time/brains, with the contributors working mainly for ownership, but not for dollars. The problem sets they have been thus far able to address are limited to those that don't require much material, and can have there brain/time added in small incriments.

The thing is everyone who uses OSS owns it to some extent. Everyone who contrubutes owns perfered stock.



So the question was what of OSS and innovation.

In it's own way, and in applicable fields of problems OSS has the ability for much more innovation than the capitalist hierarchies.

Innovation is often retarded and held back by corporations. If innovation doesn't help the bottom line it isn't done, or is impeeded. For example, the american auto industry and anything related to hybred or high efficentcy viehicles.

Any innovation that is legaly protected under the umbrella of IP law, dosn't get out, dosn't get productised unless enough money can be gathered by the umbrella holder.


Remember the 'innovation' of seatbelts? It's the same problem but in reverse. They didn't get into products because the producers didn't want them.


So the IP laws are double edged swords as far as innovation goes. Or at least using innovation, which I would aruge is the emportant part.


OSS dosn't have this problem.


As far as the original work on operating systems. Many of the people working on them were not primarily motivated by money. They were interested in math, logic and science. The people/organizations that provided the specific problems and material resources however... tipicaly often were.

Jeff Vail said...

The term "emergent" refers to 'the result of the phenomenon of emergence', not something that is emerging or in some what new--probably didn't make that very clear earlier. Folk music is in now way "new," almost by definition, but is definitely emergent.

Re: aggregation, there are certainly areas in which OSS is very efficient--my argument is that it fails to provide "first-generation" innovation. Such fundamental innovations require (normally, though admittedly not always) huge investments in time and research, and are only regularly and consistently practical under the "ownership" model, or as a result of emergence. OSS tries to span this gap, and fails on both counts. Here's my challenge:

Name a fundamental, watershed innovation in software that came out of the OSS community.

There are countless examples on offer from the world of ownership-based, for-profit software development. There are a few more that seem like they may stem from "OSS", like the internet protocols, but that are in fact the result of government/defense subsidy.

Counter to my own argument: I don't know about the genesis of peer-to-peer software concepts, but to what degree was Napster original in concept, or was it just an adaptation of something developed elsewhere?

gulfie said...

If you ask the wrong question, the answers do not matter.

I'm not sure the quesion 'Name a fundamental, watershed innovation in software that came out of the OSS community'.

The question may presuppose to much.

So what is the OSS community? Would acidamia, with there free flow of papers and ideas be considered part of that movement in some regard? Though the roots go back further than the defnintion of OSS, BSD, or GNU and into accidamia.

It is debateable at least.

So I offer four possibilites.
- the WWW
- BSD / HP / NeXTStep / Mac OS X
- bit torrent
- Linux / redhat / suppercomputing

Tim Berners-Lee was a contracter at CERN, a research lab when he came up with Enquire, a predisesor to http and the web.

If CERN could be considered acadamia. An argument could be made. NCSA the first later came along with a better browser, and Appache came a long to serve it.

At some point, far after the viral usefullness of the projects were well established, corporate interests found a profit motive and took over to some extent. Microsoft with IE, Netscape with... Netscape, and others. Without Apache, and free web browsers the WWW would be a shaddow of it's curent self. But most people only know of I.E. As a marketed personality not to many people know of Tim Berners-Lee. He has helped possibly Trillions of dollars in capital move around, yet Paris Hilton is known recognised on site by more people.


- BSD / HP / NeXTStep / Mac OS X

Not a watershed event, but maybe telling.

Another child of the nebulous acidamia, BSD definitely benifited from the work of large corporations that were doing OS research, ATT being one of the biggest. After a while however ATT stoped doing UNIX, and their researchers moved on to other things like Brazil and Plan9.


The BSD source base, much like the WWW that came later, was pouched by companies like HP, SUN and a raft of hardware vendors that are nolonger with us.


The BSD community is still around, and innovating every day.
At the heart of every MacOS X box runs an OSS project. The corporation just barrowed it and put it's innovation and name on top of the pile, so it is what is seen.


- bit torrent

Bram Cohen was just this guy. Peer to peer download was already around, but distributed downloading was not. He just thought it up and did it. Bit torrents original licenses were all free. Only reciently has it been turned into a company, and taken funding.

It's still a bit early to know if this'll be a watershed event. My guess is that the ideas expressed with in it are.


- Linux / redhat / suppercomputing

Linux was useable as a hobby system long before companys found a way to monitize it. 4 of the top 5 supper computers are running linux clusters. Cluster computing has been around, or attempted in one form or since before computers ran on silicon.

Somehow linux is able to do what generations of both corporate and academic Phd's could not. Or maybe it just happened to be around at the right time, as the google founders said, it had the right price point.



I guess maybe a core result is that the OSS comunity, and there work is the watershed innovation you may be looking for. Not individualy but in agregate. Maybe not as something that can be pointed at, but as a bed from which things you can point at spring forth.

gilemon said...

for the "correlation doesn’t equal causation" issue.

http://noosphere.princeton.edu/

Jeff Vail said...

It's certainly an area for debate. That said, I'd argue that:

1. Linux is a derivative of UNIX which stemmed from the military-industrial complex subsidized academia. Torvald's improvements are not watershed. HOWEVER, the process of opening up the means of improvement and modification to all IS watershed--I just don't know where to point to for the genesis of this concept. Apache did it before Torvalds.

2. Apache. Again, they took a government/academia developed server software and opened it up--that act of opening may be watershed innovation (IF they were the first), but the improvements to Apache itself were not.

3. WWW. This developed out of ARPANet, which was a product of the military-industrial complex in its purest sense. The improvements made all along the way were sometimes significant, but I don't know if any of the improvements that can't be traced to government subsidy were watershed.

4. Same with supercomputing... genesis lies with military artillery calculations.

5. Bit Torrent--a real possibility. The Peer to Peer and filesharing concepts, as a single concept, is certainly watershed. What was the genesis? I don't know how much can be attributed to the open source process, to lone mavericks like the Napster guy, or to academics (and hence government subsidy) who liked to develop easy ways to share data.

At some point, the boundary between "Software Open Source" and "Emergent Rhizomatic Environment" gets very blurry. IF true watershed innovation is found in OSS, I'm willing to bet that it will be in this gray area...

gulfie said...

To be fair, if Linux, apache, and the WWW are all derived from military funded acadamia, then so must Bit Torrent. Sure, some guy did it, but it's running on ARPAnet, so eh'.

The genesis of all modern computing lies through military artillery calculations. There were some interesting moments with buisness and census tabulators and the programable loomb, but it all passes through military labs at some point. So is all of computing nolonger a place where one could find a watershed OSS development?

Which gets back to the question being... questionable.

Conversly, at one time or another, most of that innovation was languising in some underfunded backwater of acadamia to be later 'discovered' by hierarchical IP Conquistadors.

Peter said...

There's a well researched book on the pharmaceutical industry which came out in 2004 called The $800 Million Pill(http://www.gooznews.com/). The author describes the typical path to market of a new drug. First off, some university based researcher will conduct 10 to 20 years of research in a narrow area. Then one day he comes up with a molecule that shows promise as a treatment for problem A. This is when Big Pharma steps in and acquires the patent rights to the molecule and handles the trials phase before launching it in the market.

In summary, Big Pharma doesn't do the heavy lifting in R&D. It just waits for someone else to come up with a promising molecule and then takes over once it's ready to go to market.

sonof said...

I think Stallman's viral contract, the GPL, is a revolutionary OSS development.

You may not consider it software, but contracts (literally, not metaphorically) are the software that runs on the abstract machine of the contract-law interpretation/enforcement infrastructure. Contract law is certainly Turing-complete, (or at least FSM-complete like any other real-life computer.)

By attaching itself to future code generations, the GPL forces the rhizomatic ownership structure to emerge.

There is no doubt that contracts will continue to increase in complexity. The distributed wetware machine is increasingly replaced with programmatic enforcement (see jurix.nl, fc-discuss, and cypherpunk list archives); this cannot fail to drive complexity in contracts.

Anonymous said...

Hey --

If I'm reading this correctly, Jeff, I think you are looking for prior examples of emergent complexity in OSS. Perhaps the answer is simply that the OSS netwrok has not been around long enough, not built up enough component parts to yet show emergent properties. So its not a question of whether it is capable of doing so (which I find totally unbelievable -- innovation is a function of joy, not dollars) but rather a question of when it will develop sufficient complexity to do so. (and then, of course, will we see it suddenly explode with innovation?)

Janene

Decklin Foster said...

You might as well ask when non-free software has ever innovated. The office suite was merely a copy of a research project, and the web browser a copy of an academic tool.

Jeff Z said...

I think at this point, it's very early in the game for Open Source as it strictly applies to software. Since, as noted, all the "innovation" in software took place the ownership, capitalist system, I don't think any specific problems have arisen yet where OSS has had a chance to be the lead innovator.

There hasn't been a "new" problem like, say, "I need software to edit images and paint artwork," or some other root user need, in quite some time. The kinds of tasks that computers are really good at have been pretty well defined both in the world at large and at the algorithmic level in computer science.

We won't see what OSS can really do for innovation until we are presented with an interesting, unique new problem to solve or need to address. I can't imagine what such a problem or need might be, but time is sure to bring us a challenge sooner than later, and then we'll see what Open Source might really be capable of.

BTW, most of those folk songs and traditional songs probably had single writers, or a small group of writers who created them in the first place, it's just that their names have been lost to antiquity and the lack of written permanent record keeping prior to about 500 years ago. The ability to create something, put your name on it, and distribute copies of it worldwide is a very, very new thing to human creativity. That should be considered when thinking about human innovation over time.

Smitty said...

Is it fair or even possible to make this kind of judgement about OSS vs hierchical considering the environment currently dominating? The comparison doesn't seem to work for me.

I try to imagine if we existed in a society where OSS were the norm and within that existed small communities that were very hierchical. Would reaching conclusions about the merits of OSS vs hiearchical in that environment be sound?

Over at CNN there is a story about a report on Wikipedia and how it, as an open source project is just as accurate as Britannica. Not innovation in the sense being discussed here but interesting that CNN has made this a story.
Wikipedia as accurate as Britannica

Kevin Carson said...

Some of the biggest enemies of so-called "intellectual property" [sic] are free market libertarians. Genuine, tangible property stems from the fact that two human beings cannot occupy the same space at the same time, and the same object cannot be possessed by two people. The assertion and defense of property rights follows from the very fact of occupying and using a piece of land. IP, on the other hand, is a fake form of "property" that requires the state to invade MY property and make sure I'm not using my own stuff in a way that violates somebody else's copyright.

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