Monday, September 07, 2009

Open Source - beyond I.T.

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a while - and it started off as a bit of an aimless one about how the model for open source development - if applied to other areas apart from software development - could be the key to a sustainable economy, one that puts both consumers and small businesses back in the driving seat at the expense of monopolies that dominate most marketplaces.

It involved an elaborate plan to spec out the more popular items that we currently buy, arrive at agreed specifications or recipes for them (perhaps using some kind of wiki) along with a reputation management system that suppliers can use to establish the fact that they do, indeed, make the things that they promise to make, and that they stick to the agreed specifications.

So long to big car manufacturers. So long to the buy-new-instead-of-fix-it culture (if we can spend pennies to buy spare parts that actually fit for common household goods) and so on.

If you ever go to Ikea, you can see how well-modeled their product system is. They have bits of furniture that they've been selling for years because they know what their customers will buy. There's no reason that there couldn't be a commonly-specified rival to the Billy Bookshelf system, for instance.

But then it struck me that the real problem is the way that large companies can hoard their market research.

If someone were to come up with a collaborative market research tool that could guarantee widespread participation on the promise that all findings would be made public, perhaps this step along could chip away at the dominance that large companies have over smaller ones.

I'd like to think that - whenever I expressed any kind of preference, or that the market observed me making a choice, that no single company could turn that observation into data that it then held privately without sharing it (even if they didn't invade my privacy - an issue that I seem to care about a bit less than some - by placing that data in a file that also contained a unique identifier that linked it to me personally)

It's interesting that a cursory search on the term 'against monopoly' throws up this site - one that would probably be more accurately entitled 'against patents'....

Need to think some more about this - but what do you think?

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