Ted Leung on the air
Ted Leung on the air: Open Source, Java, Python, and ...
Fri, 08 Apr 2005
Ross Mayfield on Open Source and Innovation

Ross Mayfield has written a post describing some of the dynamics of the relationship between open source and innovation. Here are a few of the sections that I liked the most.

... The greatest breakthrough for open source, IMHO, is applying collaborative methodologies for development. Inherent in collaborative practices is a greater opportunity for innovation than competitive practices.

Some norms such as the right to fork, open participation and self-organizing contribution strengthen this opportunity and provide models for consideration beyond software development. When a project can be forked, it provides a balance against poor management (albeit at a cost) and fosters a leadership style that lets other express ideas and have them be heard. Leadership forms the core of a social network of innovation, being an arbiter of information and quality outcomes. Open participation is essential to innovation, to bring in new people with new ideas. By self-organizing I don't mean some high falutin' emergence, but the simple freedom for people to choose where to contribute based on their expertise and personal motivation.
I would suggest that open source could improve management practices, if we can get past treating our employees as competitors. Through sharing, innovation proliferates.

Go read the whole thing.

[00:08] | [computers/open_source] | # | TB | F | G | 2 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post

I enjoy reading your blog because it gives me a glimpse into a world totally alien from my own.  You're writing open source, web-based software that promotes the discovery and renewal of social groupings. (At least that is my impression of your Chandler calendaring software).  Even the tools, such as Mysql and Python, you use are open source.  That's fantastic.

But recently I've noticed a lot of preening concerning open source software on this site.  I think that will happen sometimes when you are insulated from people who do not happen to share your outlook.  Your impression will be that the only great programmers around are open-source advocates.  Intellectually you may know that there are developers out there who work on proprietory software who are really productivity, but, maybe, emotionally, you may discount them as sell-outs, or even worse, un-innovative. 

I have never had a pointy-haired boss.  My colleagues have been truly hardened developers.  Though I regularly use an open source library (SCREAMER which adds constraints logic programming to common lisp), my development environment is completely proprietory. It's a smooth, stable platform.

Have you considered how much faster the development of Chandler would, if you had used a high-end development environment such as Franz's Allegro Common Lisp (I am not associated with this company as a user or employee, btw) ? If sign an NDA with Franz, you get the source.

I'm not trying to be a jerk.  If you feel your "calling" is to demonstrate how valuable open source initiatives are to software development, I think, then, you are doing a wonderful service.  But again, I would guard against the bias that those who don't share your point of view are short-sighted or small-minded.


p.s. Do you take requests?  Maybe you could talk about how you plan to market Chandler?
Posted by
minstrelboy at Fri Apr 8 02:03:44 2005


The tagline for the blog says "Open Source, Java, Python, and ... ".  I'm not sure exactly what you'd expect to find.  I worked on proprietary software for the majority of my professional life, and I'm well aware that there are many world class developers who are not working on open source software.

I didn't clearly state why I liked Ross's post so much.  I believe that people working on open source software should be doing more innovating (yea, even inventing) than they are now.  If you compare Linux and the Mac from an innovation point of view, it's no contest (in my mind).  The Mac is clearly superior.  So the point of my posting was to try to advance the idea that open source try to live up to the potential that Ross described.  I care a lot about innovation (more than about software freedom) and I want to see the open source movement start to innovate.  That's one of the reasons that I decided to go work on Chandler.

As far as the development of Chandler goes, many people have interepreted the slow pace of Chandler development to problems with the development environment or tools or some other technical problem.  Most of the reason that Chandler is late in coming is that we are trying to do a lot of innovative stuff, and having lots of discussion about how things ought to work.  You can't build something unless you know what you want it to do.  And we've had lots of discussions and debate about what we want it to do.  So right now, it's not tool quality that's holding us back.  And being an old Lisp Machine hacker (definitely proprietary software), I am well aware of the leverage that a good language and development environment give you.

A few factual corrections.  Chandler is not web-based software, it is rich GUI client software in the tradition of desktop PC apps.  Also we're not using MySQL, but Berkeley DB (which also is open source).

I don't feel that I need to demonstrate the value of open source -- I think that people are recognizing that themselves.  If anything, I am trying to raise issues that the open source community is facing as it tries to make the jump from "niche for crazy communist hackers" to one on f the accepted software development styles. 

As far as marketing Chandler, I don't have a lot to say right now.  We do have a marketing person, and we're very aware of the successful Firefox makerting effort, but at this point, we are focusing on making a usable piece of software.  You have to have something to market, and we are still easily 9 months away on that count.
Posted by
Ted Leung at Sat Apr 9 22:52:19 2005

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