Thursday, February 27, 2003

The Success of Open Source

open source :: programming

Notes: Weber (Steve, Not Max): The Success of Open Source: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal

"People often see in the open source software movement the politics
that they would lke to see -- a libertarian reverie, a perfect
meritocracy, a utopian 'gift culture' that celebrates an economics of
abundance instead of scarcity, a 'virtual' or electronic existence
proof of communitarian ideals, a political movement aimed at replacing
obsolete 19th century capitalist structures with new 'relations of
production' more suited to the information age." "No one says that
hierarchical coordination is efficient, only that it is less
inefficient than alternatives."

This guy seems to address many of the questions that business
leaders around the world are asking themselves. The quote that Brad
DeLong has on his site addresses the following:

* Motivation: Why do highly-talented programmers voluntary allocate
some or a substantial portion of their time and mind-space to a joint
project for which they will not be compensated?

* Coordination: How and why do these individuals coordinate their contributions on a single 'focal point'?

* Complexity: Brooks's Law: in software program lines written scale
linearly with the number of programmers, while complexity and
vulnerability to mistakes scale geometrically. How does open source
avoid falling into the trap of Brooks's Law, and the resulting dynamic
toward more and more hierarchical forms of organization?

WEF in Davos, Switzerland


This post is a collection of high-lights from this email
take from the Topica Email List Directory.

The global economy is in very very very very bad shape. Last yearwhen WEF met here in New York all I heard was, "Yeah, it's bad, butrecovery is right around the corner". This year "recovery" was a wordnever uttered. Fear was palpable -- fear of enormous fiscal hysteria.The watchwords were "deflation", "long term stagnation" and "collapse ofthe dollar". All of this is without war.

US unilateralism is seen as arrogant, bullyish. If the U.S.
cannot behave in partnership with its allies -- especially the Europeans
-- it risks not only political alliance but BUSINESS, as well. Company
leaders argued that they would rather not have to deal with US
government attitudes about all sorts of multilateral treaties (climate
change, intellectual property, rights of children, etc.) -- it's easier
to just do business in countries whose governments agree with yours. And
it's cheaper, in the long run, because the regulatory envornments match.
War against Iraq is seen as just another example of the unilateralism.

I learned that the US economy is the primary drag on the global economy,
and only a handful of nations have sufficient internal growth to thrive
when the US is stagnating.

Finally, who are these guys? I actually enjoyed a lot of my
conversations, and found many of the leaders and rich quite charming and
remarkably candid. Some dressed elegantly, no matter how bitter cold and
snowy it was, but most seemed quite happy in ski clothes or casual
attire. Women wearing pants was perfectly acceptable, and the elite is
Multicultural that even the suit and tie lacks a sense of dominance.
Watching Bill Clinton address the conference while sitting in the hotel
room of the President of Mozambique -- we were viewing it on closed
circuit TV -- I got juicy blow-by=blow analysis of US foreign policy
from a remarkably candid head of state. A day spent with Bill Gates
turned out to be fascinating and fun. I found the CEO of Heinekin
hilarious, and George Soros proved quite earnest about confronting AIDS.
Vicente Fox -- who I had breakfast with -- proved sexy and smart like a
--- well, a fox. David Stern (Chair of the NBA) ran up and gave me a

The world isn't run by a clever cabal. It's run by about 5,000
bickering, sometimes charming, usually arrogant, mostly male people who
are accustomed to living in either phenomenal wealth, or great personal
power. A few have both. Many of them turn out to be remarkably naive --
especially about science and technology. All of them are financially
wise, though their ranks have thinned due to unwise tech-stock
investing. They pay close heed to politics, though most would be happy
if the global political system behaved far more rationally -- better for
the bottom line. They work very hard, attending sessions from dawn to
nearly midnight, but expect the standards of intelligence and analysis
to be the best available in the entire world. They are impatient. They
have a hard time reconciling long term issues (global wearming, AIDS
pandemic, resource scarcity) with their daily bottomline foci. They are
comfortable working across languages, cultures and gender, though white
caucasian males still outnumber all other categories. They adore hi-tech
gadgets and are glued to their cell phones.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Who's Afraid of Adam Smith? How the Market Got Its Soul!


Knowledge@Wharton -

"It is strongest as an economics primer cum publishing memoir,
weaving a history of modern economic theory and practice from the era
of Adam Smith onward with some of the author's own experiences in the
field. These experiences include a range of luminaries he has met, work
he has published, speeches he has heard and conferences he has
attended. Dougherty brings us along on the journey and at the same time
takes us back through several centuries of economic and philosophical
progress: It's not always smooth, not always pretty, but usually
interesting and almost always wittily related."

The review finished with:

"those who have heretofore only seen Adam Smith as the cudgel used
by free market ideologues against any and all market intervention will
have been shown an important, under-explored side of his work.

"Dougherty has written an interesting, valuable, and layered book
that gives us a rich new perspective on Adam Smith and the profession
that he did so much to define."

Sunday, February 23, 2003

UNIX to Mac OS X porting

macosx :: programming

Gotchas when porting UNIX software to OS X

This is a fantastic little run-down that's well worth knowing about.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Shaker thoughts

society :: politics

Shakers Compendium (1859) - Section 2 of 4

To the mind of the simple, unsophisticated Shaker it seems
marvelously inconsistent for any human government to be administered
for the sole benefit of its own officers and their particular friends
and favorites; or that more than one half the citizens should be
disfranchised because they happen to be females, and compelled by the
sword to obey laws they never sanctioned, and ofttimes in which they
have no faith, and to submit to taxation where there has been no
previous representation; while still millions of other fellow-citizens
are treated as property, because they chance to possess a
darker-colored skin than their cruel brethren. And again, that the
members (brethren and sisters) of the same religious body or church
should be divided into rich and poor in the things of this temporary
world, but who are vainly expecting that, in the world to come, they
shall be willing to have eternal things in common!

And when this same unjust and unequal administration is confirmed
and carried out in the most popular religious organizations of
Christendom, the Shakers think the climax of absurdity, tyranny, and
oppression well-nigh attained.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Consumers' Republic

economics :: business

HBS Working Knowledge: Business History: How We Became a Consumers' Republic

Cohen: "A consumers' republic" is the terminology I employ in A
Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar
America, for what I discovered was a shared understanding among many
Americans, beginning right after World War II and lasting into the
mid-1970s, that the best strategy for reconstructing the nation's
economy and reaffirming its democratic values lay with promoting the
expansion of mass consumption.

This is very interesting... the energies involved (powered by the
devestating impact of the war on our collective psyche?) in sustaining
that kind of momentum... worth examining. So, it dies out in the 70's;
what comes next? The cliche of the 80's greed... then the 90's
oportunism... none of this has any sustaining power.

BIG BINGO: I realize that retailers, like other businesses, have
to make decisions that are financially responsible. But I would hope
that my book points out that there are often social, cultural, and
political implications of business decisions that those who make them
may not be fully aware of. My hope is that by pointing out some of
these unexpected ramifications, socially concerned members of the
business community may seek remedies or at least think through such
consequences the next time they face a similar decision.

Yes!!! Exactly!!! I may have to run out and buy this book now...

This interview is extraordinary; the author is amazing - she is so
cohereant and understandable; clear thoughts and clear explanations.

Building Communities as Well as Companies

open :: business

HBS Working Knowledge: H. Naylor Fitzhugh Conference: Building Communities as Well as Companies

"Many of my colleagues stepped up their lifestyles and encumbered
themselves with big houses once they began making money," he said. "For
me, it was about being comfortable in my 'hood, investing, and
developing relationships with people well before I had launched my
business. Start planning early. Save money. And go back to your
community."Feeling profitable, McMillan said, is not only about
economics -- it's about earning respect from clients and the business
community at large.

The Strange World of Business

open :: business

HBS Working Knowledge: Organizations: Spirit at Work: The Search for Deeper Meaning in the Workplace

I don't know what I find stranger - that the business world is
reaching out into all these different branches of human knowledge and
experience not traditionally associated with business, or that business
has historically been so divorced from all other aspects of life that
didn't focus around profits and aquisitions.

This article is ver interesting in that gives a very clear example
of what seems to be happening more and more: business in search of
meaning. Earning a living so consumes our lives, and though many see
this as not necessarily possitive, it's not going away anytime soon. As
a result, people are becoming very (deperately?) interested in
revitalizing or redefining bread-winning.

I continue to observe and look forward to each new unfolding in this process...

Why start a foundation?

open :: business


From the site:

Why a Foundation?

First and foremost, the reason to start a foundation is to fulfill a philanthropic mission.

Many foundations are set up with the notion that the endowment is to
be permanent. Even small endowments, by providing persistent funding to
a cause or charitable organization, can create tremendous public
benefit over years.

Is there a minimum recommended size?

For a simple, permanently-endowed foundation, many advisors think
$500,000 seems to be a practical minimum. This estimate seems to be
based on the assumption that the foundation will hire professionals,
and if so, little income will be left over for grantmaking. However,
this assumption is simplistic and does not reflect reality.

More good stuff on that page. They also provide useful links:

Venture Capital Goes Back to Basics

open :: business

HBS Working Knowledge: Alumni Insights: Daniel Ahn: Venture Capital Goes Back to Basics

Some interesting things mentioned in this article:

...the one-two punch of the dot-com implosion and slowing economy
has restored to the industry a sense of level-headedness, emphasis on
due diligence, and realistic expectations.

"Basically we are taking our time and building companies. We're not
going to ramp product development and teams ahead of customer needs,
which is generally what firms have been doing. We're more on the
conservative side."

"One of the most important things is the really great people you
can recruit. This was not the case in 1999-2000," Ahn says. Plenty of
smart, talented people are looking for their next opportunity in a
well-back startup. Better yet for entrepreneurs, these execs have
realistic compensation expectations.

The second advantage of this market is access to resources such as
lawyers, consultants, and recruiters, all of whom were rather busier a
year ago.

Ahn also steered his own startup, an experience that provided
perspective on the life of an entrepreneur. He co-founded and was
president of Endpoint Technologies Inc., which developed and sold
real-time manufacturing control systems for semiconductor device
production. The company was later acquired by Applied Materials.

"I learned that I didn't know that much, that it's a lot different
doing it yourself as opposed to coaching someone else. Entrepreneurship
is best left to the professionals."

Today, the best potential markets he is looking at are those
hardware, software, and services helping the transition of business
communications from analog to digital, marrying the Internet with
voice, video and real-time communications.

Job Security and Loyalty

open :: business

From Getting Employees to Fall in Love with Your Company. I believe the title is all hype. However, some of the content is well-phrased:

"The new workplace realities have radically changed the way
employees view the role of work within their lives. No longer do
employees believe in the work covenants of the past. They recognize the
new realities and have adjusted their thinking accordingly. However,
most companies continue to operate under the old workplace realities
and have failed to adjust their thinking or their operations. Just as
the workplace rules have forever changed, so too must the way companies
meet the new motivational needs of today's employee."

More good stuff:

"The death of lifetime job security has forever changed the way
employees view the role of work in their lives. The cornerstones of the
dream career--a lifetime job guarantee with full retirement benefits in
exchange for a lifetime of loyalty to the company--are gone. Job
security is now the ultimate oxymoron. Even the most loyal and
committed employees understand that their jobs will never again be
secure, that a lifetime with any company is extremely rare. For
example, according to Richard Belous, chief economist of the National
Planning Association, 45 million people today are either self-employed
or working as temps, part-timers, or consultants.1 That is fully
one-third of the American working population. In Europe, the figure is
already close to 50 percent."

Finally! At the very end of the article, they say this:

* Capture the hearts and minds of all your employees.

* Open communication between all levels of your organization.

* Create partnerships between all employees built upon trust, equality, and sharing.

* Drive learning into every nook and cranny of your company. Emancipate
the action of every employee to increase service and profits.

Now that does justify the title of the article, and I do believe these statements as true.

The credits at the end of the article:

Excerpted from Title Jim Harris, Ph.D. Copyright 1996 Jim
Harris/[AMACOM a division of American Management Association
International, New York, NY.

Jim Harris, Ph.D. (Indian Rocks Beach, FL) is founder and president
of The Jim Harris Group, specializing in the creation of
high-performance workplaces. He is a former executive at Eckerd

Corporate Values?

open :: business

I am going to be contentious. So much of the "research" I see
in the business world is nothing more than cheerleading and pep-talks.
It's tiresome. Take a look at some of the questions for which stats are
given in this research summary of the AMA:

Are the corporate values of your organization specifically written or

Is information about corporate values discussed in any of the following?
(Employee handbooks, Company brochures, etc.)

Are corporate values linked to performance evaluations and

What are the stated values of your organization?

Honestly, what is this? Has anyone found effective ways of putting
coorporate values in place without it coming off false? Yes. You know
who they are? The people that treat their organizations like living,
highly complex systems.

However, here are some interesting percentages:

Within your organization have you seen any of the following behaviors?
Micro-management 70%

Failure to give credit 59%
Dissension in senior management ranks 58%
Hidden agendas 56%
Dictatorial management 51%
Lack of accountability 46%
Unequal treatment of employees 40%
'Kill the messenger' behavior 36%
Lying by employees 28%
Distortion of facts to customers 22%

Lying to employees 17%
Distortion of facts to shareholders 9%
Indifference to community concerns
(e.g. environmental issues) 9%
Falsifying expense accounts 7%

Justification for the OBF

open :: business

Should the Open Business Foundation even exist? What are the
things it strives to provide that are either not currently provided or
not provided well?

A quick sketch of areas that the OBF would like to address... the hierarchy is currently arbitrary and not organized:

Mission Divisions:

- contributions from related research

- contributions from the community

Infomation dissemination
* Community
- communication (input/feedback) via forums/maillists
- standard email

- user-contributed web content
- document downloads/uploads (OSS model)
* Assimilation
- organization of standard materials, both easily availible and those hard to come by
- lessons learned from the nations best businesses
* what activities of a business help secure economic stabliity?
* what encourages the evolution of the economy?

* Ethical/social responsibility

- fiscal
- management
- corporate culture

Monday, February 17, 2003

In Praise of Evolvable Systems

Shirky: In Praise of Evolvable Systems first appeared in the ACM's net_worker, 1996, and there are some particularly thought-provoking comments that Clay Shirky makes:
...the Web's poorer engineering qualities seem not merely desirable but essential.
The effects of this ease of implementation, as opposed to the difficulties of launching a Gopher index or making a CD-ROM, are twofold: a huge increase in truly pointless and stupid content soaking up bandwidth; and, as a direct result, a rush to find ways to compete with all the noise through the creation of interesting work. The quality of the best work on the Web today has not happened in spite of the mass of garbage out there, but in part because of it.
Finally, Orgel's Rule, named for the evolutionary biologist Leslie Orgel -- "Evolution is cleverer than you are". As with the list of the Web's obvious deficiencies above, it is easy to point out what is wrong with any evolvable system at any point in its life... However, the ability to understand what is missing at any given moment does not mean that one person or a small central group can design a better system in the long haul.
Centrally designed protocols start out strong and improve logarithmically. Evolvable protocols start out weak and improve exponentially. It's dinosaurs vs. mammals, and the mammals win every time. The Web is not the perfect hypertext protocol, just the best one that's also currently practical. Infrastructure built on evolvable protocols will always be partially incomplete, partially wrong and ultimately better designed than its competition.

As with the early Web, the 'glue' protocol subsumes the other protocols and produces a kind of weak integration, but weak integration is better than no integration at all, and it is far easier to move from weak integration to strong integration than from none to some. In 5 years, DVD, HDTV, voice-over-IP, and Java will all be able to interoperate because of some new set of protocols which, like HTTP and HTML, is going to be weak, relatively uncoordinated, imperfectly implemented and, in the end, invincible.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Middlemen versus Market Makers: A Theory of Competitive Exchange

economics :: business

John Rust, George Hall

NBER Working Paper No. w8883

Issued in April 2002

---- Abstract -----

We present a model in which the microstructure of trade in a
commodity or asset is endogenously determined. Producers and consumers
of a commodity (or buyers and sellers of an asset) who wish to trade
can choose between two competing types of intermediaries: 'middlemen'
(dealer/brokers) and 'market makers' (specialists).

Market makers post publicly observable bid and ask prices, whereas
the prices quoted by different middlemen are private information that
can only be obtained through a costly search process. We consider an
initial equilibrium where there are no market makers but there is free
entry of middlemen with heterogeneous transactions costs. We
characterize conditions under which entry of a single market maker can
be profitable even though it is common knowledge that all surviving
middlemen will undercut the market maker's publicly posted bid and ask
prices in the post-entry equilibrium. The market maker's entry induces
the surviving middlemen to reduce their bid-ask spreads, and as a
result, all producers and consumers who choose to participate in the
market enjoy a strict increase in their expected gains from trade. We
show that strict Pareto improvements occur even in cases where the
market maker's entry drives all middlemen out of business, monopolizing
the intermediation of trade in the market.

Speculative Microeconomics for Tomorrow's Economy

economics :: society

Interesting quotes from the paper here:

"In the information-based sectors of the next economy the use or
enjoyment of the information-based commodity will no longer necessarily
involve rivalry."

"Competition has been the standard way of keeping individual
producers from exercising power over consumers: if you don't like the
terms the producer is offering, then you can just go down the street.
But this use of private economic power to check private power may come
at an expensive cost if competitors spend their time duplicating one
another's efforts and attempting to slow down technological development
in the interest of obtaining a compatibility advantage, or creating a
compatibility or usability disadvantage for the other guy."

"A good economic market is characterized by competition to limit the
exercise of private economic power, by price equal to marginal cost, by
returns to investors and workers corresponding to the social value
added of the industry, and by appropriate incentives for innovation and
new product development. These seem impossible to achieve all at once
in markets for non-rival goods--and digital goods are certainly

Note for OBF: we want to dissavow practices such as these:

"While consumers prefer the ability to comparison-shop and to switch
easily to another product, producers fear this ability--and have
incentives to perform subtle tweaks to their programs to make it
difficult to do so."

This is interesting, given that my observations as an employee of technical corporations and as an entrepreneur led to the OBF:

"The natural place to look is to examine how enterprises and
entrepreneurs are reacting today to the coming of non-excludability,
non-rivalry, and non-transparency on the electronic frontier."

Here is a good thought for the small-time service provider to consider:

"The growth of the bookstore chain put the local bookshop out of
business, just as the growth of supermarkets killed the corner grocer.
Not everyone considers this trend to be a victory, despite the lower
prices. A human element has been lost, and a "personal service" element
that may have led to a better fit between purchaser and purchase has
been lost as well."

An excellent argument for competition:

"One of the biggest benefits of a market economy is that it provides
for sunset. When faced with competition, relatively inefficient
organizations fail to take in revenue to cover their costs, and then
they die. Competition is thus still a virtue, whether the governing
framework is one of gift-exchange or buy-and-sell--unless competition
destroys the ability to capture significant economies of scale."

Information disclosure:

" In the absence of any clear indication of what the optimum would
be, the burden of proof should be on those who argue that any level of
excludability should be mandated. This applies particularly to
information that is not the content being sold but that is instead
about the current state of the market itself. There is a long tradition
that information about the state of the marketplace should be as widely
broadcast as possible. We cannot see any economic arguments against
this tradition."

The future:

"Along a number of dimensions, there is good reason to fear that the
enormous economies of scale found in the production of non-rivalrous
commodities are pushing us in the direction of a winner-take-all
economy. The long-run impact of the information revolution on the
distribution of income and wealth is something that we have not even
begun to analyze."

"Napsterizing" Pharmaceuticals: Access, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare

society :: economics

"Napsterizing" Pharmaceuticals: Access, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare

James W. Hughes, Michael J. Moore, Edward A. Snyder

NBER Working Paper No. w9229

Issued in September 2002

"...Specifically, the model yields the result that for every dollar
in consumer benefit realized from providing greater access to the
current stock, future consumers would be harmed at a rate of three
dollars in present value terms from reduced future innovation. We
obtain this result even accounting for the stylized fact that after
generic entry branded drugs continue to earn significant price premia
over generic products and hence recognizing that Napsterizing does not
completely eliminate the incentives to innovate."


open :: business

The Open Business Foundation need not have a single vision that
it strives to enforce on a community or collection of communities.
Doing so would most likely result in an early demise of the OBF.

I have been thinking that I needed to define the OBF in just such a
way. Giving well-defined boundaries, an attack plan, or sets of rules
is a normal way of proceeding in the development of groups and
organizations. This provides a pre-digested form of ideas that are
easily distributed and ingested by others.

However, I was reading something interesting...

Clay Shirky mentioned Albert-Laszlo Barabasi in his article Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality. In the course of rereading this article, I began visiting its links, and found a most extraordinary page (this is also a good one), one with a link to the first chapter of a fascinating book:

"LINKED: The New Science of Networks"

How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Science, Business and Everyday Life

In particular, this quote stood out in my mind:

"But Paul understood that this was not enough: The message had to
spread. So he used his firsthand knowledge of the social network of the
first century's civilized world from Rome to Jerusalem to reach and
convert as many people as he could. He walked nearly 10,000 miles in
the next twelve years of his life. He did not wander randomly, however;
he reached out to the biggest communities of his era, to the people and
places in which the faith could germinate and spread most effectively.
He was the first and by far the most effective salesperson of
Christianity, using theology and social networks equally effectively.
So should he, or Jesus, or the message be credited for Christianity's
success? Could it happen again?"

How can Open Business establish a foothold in our internetworked
world? How can it learn from marketing and networking masters such as
Paul? How can the OBF plant itself in the brains of great thinkers and
leaders? How can its message be perfectly tailored to suit so many
different needs?

That's absurd, of course - yet it is what businesses are constantly
trying to do - be everything to everyone; garruntee consumer return.
Yet using the word "Open" in such a context seems hollow at best.

The Open Business Foundation would be better serving and better
served if it provided a forum for competing visions; a cruicible for
combining these visions; a place where views could be expressed in the
knowledge that contributions were being made in a free and open space.
The OBF is the combination of all the people and differing views that
offer themselves as part of the process; it is flexible and
self-modifying. The OBF is the evolution of open business ideas and
implementations; it is not a crusade.

OBF Intro/Front Page

open :: business

The most important thing on my list for the OBF site right now
is the completion of the front page - the content needs to be filled
in, as Google is already crawling it. Once the front page is up, I can
put a link on the Adytum site for it as well.

There are a series of quotes and concepts that I am pondering, all
of which relate in some way to the philosophy behind the OBF. What I
need, though, is to refine these to the extent that even those
unfamiliar with business and technology can instantly grasp what the
Open Business Foundation is about, simply by reading the front page.

I will paste quotes and materials as comments that I can follow up on with replies as I conside them...

EFF and OBF?

open :: business

EFF: Homepage - I wonder how the OBF should fit into all things Internet/Electronic. Seeing this site made me wonder about it.

Most of the people I know in the industry have ties to electronic
media and the Internet; they are some of the most intelligent people
that I have met...

So how can I convince them to share their brilliance with the
business world? How are the business worlds and the electronic worlds
currently connected? How will that relationship change and develop in
the future?



Always on the lookout for applicable information, I found a link on about 'altruistic' routers:

I just came across and Cory Doctorow for the
first time today. I had been reading more of Clay Shirky's stuff,
thanks to David Casti for that wonderful introduction, and googled for
Cory when Clay mentioned him.

Reading Cory's "outboard brain" article on O'Reilly (,
I was finally convinced of the use for personal blogs. This really is
what I need - a place for me to put my thoughts and provide a scratch
pad accessible to me and others, always ready for input and

I proceeded to search google for blog software, download
movebletype, and set it up. What a dream; it's even easier to get
running than *Nuke sites.

Oh, one more note: I really liked Cory's title "Outreach Coordinator" at - it describes what I see myself doing in the future as well.

New OBF Site

open :: business

The new site is coming along ( I am still running it under the old Interchange version, the one without forums. I'll need to upgrade, add forums (heavily modified - I'll use the code I developed for PBS), and then add the story publishing capability.

I have the links up, and the history (via correspondance) up. All the pages have been set with the new template, so things shouldn't look too broken.

The one problem I have been having with the story publishing code has been the IC concept of templates and components. I will need to dynamically populate the story template with components in order for this to work. I don't know if this is possible.