Friday, February 29, 2008

Fun with Simon

Simon Wardley created a couple of posts this week that make for good smiles. The first is his maturity model for cloud computing:

This one I agree with. Very funny, but funny because it reflects truth.

The second is a post on open source computing. I completely disagree with the concept that open source can keep up with closed source in terms of innovation (Anne Zelenka makes a great argument here), and that closed source is bad for ducks (see Simon's post).

However, I do believe that standardization spreads faster with open source than with closed source. For what its worth, I would also like to see a major utility computing platform release its technology to open source. (Well, at least the components that are required for portability.) I just wonder why any of them would without pressure from the market.

My equations would reflect the "Schrodinger's Cat" aspects of closed source products prior to the introduction of accepted standards,

open source == kindness to ducks
closed source == ambivolence towards ducks; could go either way


swardley said...

I'm glad you enjoyed them!

Let me respond to one point. By its very nature, open source reduces the barriers to adoption and hence the spread of an innovation which encourages further innovation.

Patents were first used to encourage the spread of innovation and to overcome the tendency towards secrecy. The benefits to society were enormous, as per the "open" approach of publishing scientific discoveries.

Obviously in a field such as software with such a vast amount of sequential innovation, patents today make no sense from a societal point of view - especially as there are alternative reward mechanisms in place.(See the work of Eric Maskin)

However, the point stands, the reason for patents was to overcome secrecy and secrecy is the nemesis of innovation. Hence my view.

However, that said, the "Schrodinger's Cat" example is so brilliant, that I have to concede to your argument on the grounds of wit alone.

Rob Helmer said...

Although not necessarily innovative in themselves, I think that examples like Wordpress and Firefox show that open source software projects can become a wildly successful platform for innovation, through plugins and extensions (which themselves may or may not be open source).

The open source nature is vital for community trust (for example, both of these projects could be forked if the current leaders went "evil") and also to be able to peer as deeply into the internals as necessary (Firefox extensions can hook into any code in the product).

I think that in general open source software does play follower to proprietary's leader, mostly because a small group (which is generally where innovation and true invention comes from) with an idea is likely to capitalize on it via a startup and either get big or get bought, and not want to give away their core product (which makes total sense, to me).