Friday, April 26, 2013

The Rise of 'Open Source': It's Not Just About Software

by Katherine Noyes 

Here in the tech world, it's become increasingly common to see market research and reports testifying to the growing ubiquity of open source software, such as the one just last week from Black Duck Software and North Bridge Venture Partners indicating that open source is “eating” the software world, as the authors put it.

What's typically not recognized, however, is that this trend toward openness in software is just one piece of a much bigger picture. In fact, openness is a trend that's taking hold throughout numerous aspects of the modern world, to the benefit of everyday people like you and me.

Open,” in other words, appears to be the future – whether we're talking software or beyond.

Ready for a quick tour? Most Linux advocates are already well aware of the benefits of open source when it comes to software, but here are two other kinds of openness I've come to appreciate from the writing I do outside the tech world.

1. The Crowdsourcing Trend

It used to be that companies were expected to create products, and consumers were expected to consume them. Legislators were expected to create laws, and citizens were expected to obey them. Investors were expected to provide funds, and companies were expected to generate a return on that investment.

Today, that's all been turned on its head. Companies routinely recruit consumers for help designing products; not only that, but they use those ideas and even reward those who came up with them. Legislators like former California Senator Joe Simitian invite – and act upon -- constituents' input for conceiving new laws.

The explosive success of sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, meanwhile, is evidence of the key role consumers have begun to play in funding the products and services that matter to them in virtually every niche and industry.

The bottom line, as I've said before, is that no organization is an “island” anymore. Consumers and citizens increasingly expect – and are afforded – openness and an active role.

2. 'Transparency Tyranny'

At the same time, no government or corporation can continue to get away with operating in secret, or behind closed doors. The global economic crisis of recent years has made it all too clear to citizens how much power has been abused at their expense, and the ongoing activities of watchdog organizations like Wikileaks have continued to drive that message home.

Except in very rare cases – Apple, in fact, might well be one of them, at least among a niche set of consumers -- citizens and customers are no longer willing to trust companies or governments to do what's best for them. The result is a phenomenon that (sister site to Springwise, one of the publications I write for) has named “Transparency Tyranny” for the fact that corporate and governmental organizations no longer have anywhere to hide; citizens and consumers are always watching and publishing their assessments for all the world to see.

The world is opening up, in other words. The horses are out of the barn, and they're not going back again. The interesting part now is to watch how the organizations that affect our lives choose to respond.

-- Katherine

Enhanced by Zemanta


Post a Comment