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What Business Can Learn from Open Source

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 06:22 AM
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Lately companies have been paying more attention to open source. Ten years ago there seemed a real danger Microsoft would extend its monopoly to servers. It seems safe to say now that open source has prevented that. A recent survey found 52% of companies are replacing Windows servers with Linux servers. [1]



More significant, I think, is which 52% they are. At this point, anyone proposing to run Windows on servers should be prepared to explain what they know about servers that Google, Yahoo, and Amazon don\'t.



But the biggest thing business has to learn from open source is not about Linux or Firefox, but about the forces that produced them. Ultimately these will affect a lot more than what software you use.



We may be able to get a fix on these underlying forces by triangulating from open source and blogging. As you\'ve probably noticed, they have a lot in common.



Like open source, blogging is something people do themselves, for free, because they enjoy it. Like open source hackers, bloggers compete with people working for money, and often win. The method of ensuring quality is also the same: Darwinian. Companies ensure quality through rules to prevent employees from screwing up. But you don\'t need that when the audience can communicate with one another. People just produce whatever they want; the good stuff spreads, and the bad gets ignored. And in both cases, feedback from the audience improves the best work.



Another thing blogging and open source have in common is the Web. People have always been willing to do great work for free, but before the Web it was harder to reach an audience or collaborate on projects.



Amateurs



I think the most important of the new principles business has to learn is that people work a lot harder on stuff they like. Well, that\'s news to no one. So how can I claim business has to learn it? When I say business doesn\'t know this, I...

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