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Friday, August 05, 2005

Paul Graham On Business & Open Source Principles

Paul Graham needs no introduction - known for his powerful ideas expressed in simple words - here he talks about the realtionship between opensource principles and Business. While I do not neccessarily agree with what is said here - I like the cogency in thought, apt examples and powerful expression of words. Excerpts with edits and comments:
"Those in the print media who dismiss the writing online because of its low average quality are missing an important point: no one reads the average blog. In the old world of channels, it meant something to talk about average quality, because that's what you were getting whether you liked it or not. But now you can read any writer you want. So the average quality of writing online isn't what the print media are competing against. They're competing against the best writing online. And, like Microsoft, they're losing." If employees have to be in the building a certain number of hours a day, and are forbidden to do non-work things while there, then they must be working. In theory. In practice they spend a lot of their time in a no-man's land, where they're neither working nor having fun. If you could measure how much work people did, many companies wouldn't need any fixed workday. You could just say: this is what you have to do. Do it whenever you like, wherever you like. If your work requires you to talk to other people in the company, then you may need to be here a certain amount. Otherwise we don't care." "I'm convinced the facetime model is the main reason large organizations have so many meetings. Per capita, large organizations accomplish very little. And yet all those people have to be on site at least eight hours a day. When so much time goes in one end and so little achievement comes out the other, something has to give. And meetings are the main mechanism for taking up the slack." Meetings are like an opiate with a network effect. So is email, on a smaller scale. And in addition to the direct cost in time, there's the cost in fragmentation-- breaking people's day up into bits too small to be useful. "

Another thing to be learnt from open source and blogging is that ideas can bubble up from the bottom, instead of flowing down from the top. Open source and blogging both work bottom-up: people make what they want, and the the best stuff prevails. It's the principle of a market economy. Ironically, though open source and blogs are done for free, those worlds resemble market economies, while most companies, for all their talk about the value of free markets, are run internally like commmunist states. There are two forces that together steer design: ideas about what to do next, and the enforcement of quality. In the channel era, both flowed down from the top. The three big lessons open source and blogging have to teach business: (1) that people work harder on stuff they like, (2) that the standard office environment is very unproductive, and (3) that bottom-up often works better than top-down.
The greatest effect, in the long run, would be of the forces underlying open source and blogging: finally ditching the old paternalistic employer-employee relationship, and replacing it with a purely economic one, between equals.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"