Thu, 02 Jun 2005

Blah. So, on the flight back home I cracked open Jon Perry Barlow’s ‘Economy of Ideas.’ I’ve had it on my ‘to read’ list since the very beginning of the semester, but more immediately relevant things have gotten in the way. I thought it would be just a fun read- Barlow is… well, you know, a little nutty :) Sadly, reading it now on the flight… blah. Really, really should have read it before I wrote my final paper. Barlow says a lot of the same things I said, but more elegantly, and has other observations that may or may not have fit in my paper, but are damn sharp anyway. Of course. This is why I haggle with bugzilla and he wrote for the Dead.

The most important part of my paper was in essence a taxonomy, though I don’t think I ever called it that. Barlow’s taxonomy is different than mine was- better defined, but also very Barlowian. I don’t think I’d ever claim information is a life form :) Partially because of that Barlowian nuttiness, he reaches conclusions and makes predictions I wasn’t willing to do in my paper, but it does make for a more interesting read.

As a gnome-related aside, the paper is very interesting for anyone interested in the ‘economy’ (not business) of free software. Go read it :) And read between the lines, of course- there are both some pretty odd bits in there, from where we stand today. For example, he repeats the suggestion that the most widely pirated software becomes a standard and hence wins. Examples in point: Lotus 1-2-3 and Word Perfect. And he predicts DRM, more or less, though he seems to suggest it might be a feature rather than a bug in many cases. So it is a touch dated. On the other hand, the datedness of some of the references make his (small) point that ‘collective “volunteer” work… may become the dominant form of human trade…’ seem even more prescient, even if he wasn’t talking about software. And he also correctly suggests that software revenues in the future will be generated largely from ‘interaction’ between authors and users- aka support.

Related to my current GNOME concerns, and my open-information practices in the bugsquad and marketing teams, I found this quote so perfect:

Sharks are said to die of suffocation if they stop swimming, and the same is nearly true of information. Information that isn’t moving ceases to exist as anything but potential…at least until it is allowed to move again. For this reason, the practice of information hoarding, common in bureaucracies, is an especially wrong-headed artifact of physically based value systems.