Business Week Online, Linux Uprising tells of the amazing story of how an open source software effort has changed the computer industry. A Microsoft executive in his retirement letter warns “Microsoft is in danger of being swept away by open source.” How can this happen? What is the energy driving this revolution?
My friend Mark Watson (I took that picture of him and his wife at the Taj Majal) effused on his blog,
“Why is the Internet so COOL? One reason is that people help each other. I try to spend about 30 minutes a week answering peoples questions on my favorite Usenet news groups. Today someone helped me! I needed to do an SQL query against a database that I just created with information on board of directors for a sampling of US companies. I am a little rusty on my SQL and was having problems. So, I posted to comp.databases a question and within a few minutes Bob Badour (who I do not know) was kind enough to help me out.”
Mark is not a newbie to the Internet. He has been publishing software since the Apple II in the late 1970′s, and written 13 technical books.
But something has changed. We are seeing the emergence of a gift economy, and we have reached a global critical mass within which an entirely new way of thinking is emerging. Two weeks ago, John Graham suggested the notion of using the Aha! as a reputation mechanism. A week ago, I posted a note on Zope.org describing our effort. And yesterday I got a message from Zope Guru Kapil Thangavelu offering to help out with the project. It turns out he has an open source package for rating which looks like it might be a foundation for doing the Aha! rating. This is an amazing sequence of events, and driven by people working out of a sense of generosity, collaboration, and cooperation. These energies are autocatalytic. The more we see them evidenced, the more incentive there will be for others to act the same way.
Can we channel this kind of energy and connectivity in other ways? Can people work together for humanitarian development, education, health, environmental issues, peace, and many other pressing problems of our times? Can we apply this energy in autocatalytic ways in which everyone is uplifted, and in so doing, uplifts everyone else?
I think so. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, thinks so, too. In Business Week Online he said:
“That’s when it hit me: You know what, people really get a good feeling themselves when they can give praise to people who deserve. That is more powerful than the need to complain about somebody. It was a wonderful revelation.”
All we need to do is give people the chance to connect at their positive core values. We’ve shown that it works in open source software, now we need to make it work in a cascade of uplift for humanity as a whole.