“Alone We Can Do So Little; Together We Can Do So Much” Helen Keller


This week’s homework assignment was about Peer Production & Open Source.

  • The first article by Hyatt (2008) is an interview with Marten Mickos – CEO of MySQL and currently senior vice president at Sun. This interview covers three main topics. The first one is about why the Internet version of barn-raising has created superior innovation. Barn-raising is an old term used to describe a community of people coming together to help build a barn. In terms of the Internet, this would be about a community of people coming together to build on open-sources and peer production in general. The second topic discusses what keeps developers devoted to their work. Finally, the third topic discussed is about his argumentation that “Leonardo da Vinci is the father of the open-source movement”.
  • The second article by von Hippel and von Krogh (2003) explores two models of innovation: the “private investment” model and the “collective investment” model. The authors suggest that open-source innovation combines the two, investment models offering society “the best of both worlds”.
  • The third article written by Zhang and Zhu (2011) examines a natural experiment at Chinese Wikipedia. This article talks about the inverse relationship between group size and incentives to contribute. On October 2005, Chinese Wikipedia it was blocked in mainland China, which resulted in a decrease of contributions by 42.8%.

After reading these three articles, I was still left with some unanswered questions. For example, I am curious to find out if programmers who contribute to open-source programs would still contribute as much if they have to get paid for it. I also wonder if this number will go up or down when they receive money for it. Also, if Wikipedia starts paying people for contributing valuable articles or knowledge, will the amount of info increase?

  • One article I found myself is written by Hinkle (2013), which talks about open-sources being a platform for innovation.The fact that there are currently no geographical boundaries to share knowledge has been the main source of new knowledge. People feed off of other people’s ideas and come together to solve problems.
  • Another article I found is written by Pillay (2014) and questions whether open-source is really the key to innovation. This article is very captivating because it is the only one that really questions innovation without simply accepting it. Ironically, it also agrees that open-source leads to immense innovation, just like the other four articles.

After reading these two articles, I found two cases (one of them inspired by Pillay).

  • Tesla created patents because they were worried about bigger car companies copying their technology. However, Tesla soon realized that technology leadership is not defined by patents. They decided to make all their patents open-source with the hope of strengthening their position instead of simply protecting it.
  • A second case that was very captivating is Apple making Swift open-source. Apple made Swift open-source, allowing innovators to use its coding and develop programs that run on non-Apple devices. Ironically, Apple is doing this to extend its own reach.
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