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Sat, 03 Jan 2004
Deanspace and open source
Continuing with the backlog, here's another one from the December Wired, which had an article about Dean's internet based campaign. Now, I know that Dean is "the blogger's candidate", and that's all fine and good -- I am not getting into politics on this blog. While I was reading the article I came across Joi Ito's that's at the end of this excerpt.
Joi Ito, founder of Neoteny, a venture firm, and former chair of Infoseek Japan, has joined a group of technologists advising Dean (others include Ross Mayfield, Clay Shirky, and Lawrence Lessig, also a regular contributor to Wired). After looking at a paper Ito and some of his colleagues have been working on called "Emergent Democracy," I contact him to ask if he thinks there's a difference between an emergent leader and an old-fashioned political opportunist. What does it take to lead a smart mob? Ito emails back an odd metaphor: "You're not a leader, you're a place. You're like a park or a garden. If it's comfortable and cool, people are attracted. Deanspace is not really about Dean. It's about us."
I don't know if this is really true about Dean or Deanspace, but it is definitely true about open source projects that have growing and thriving communities. For the most part, trying to "lead" it is an exercise in futility. When you try to make the community do something, you end up killing the very thing that makes the community successful. One way of looking at open source is the art of getting people to do what needs to be done when there's no managerial hierarchy -- no "if you don't do this, then bad thing y is going to happen to you". Its a very different way of operating and dealing with people. You don't keep secrets, you tell what you know. You don't act infallible, you acknowledge that you are human and that you need the massive peer review provided by community based software development. And somehow, you have to inspire people to do all the nasty parts of the software that need to be done, as well as all the cool stuff. Lots of people are out there doing open source for love, others are doing for money, and some lucky ones are doing it for a combination of love and money.

When I saw Joi's quote (it's in big letters in the print version), I connected with it in a visceral way. I think of it the way that I used to think of the (MIT) LCS (Lab for Computer Science) or AI Lab when I was there. These were places where you could go and hangout and pickup interesting ideas, and maybe get a chance to hack on them. Now we're setting up virtual places (projects) where people can do the same thing. Stop by and hangout (in a mailing list or IRC), get exposed to interesting ideas (or useful code, or bugs, or documentation in need of writing, or whatever), and find a way (specific to each project) to join whats going.

[23:22] | [computers/open_source] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
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