Monday, 14 August 2006

If hind sight is 20/20, what does this tell us?

Financial Times has an article on A closed mind about an open world. The author, James Boyle, asks us to test ourselves "on the following questions. In each case, it is 1991 and I have removed from you all knowledge of the past 15 years."

You have to design a global computer network. One group of scientists describes a system that is fundamentally open – open protocols and systems so anyone could connect to it and offer information or products to the world. Another group – scholars, businessmen, bureaucrats – points out the problems. Anyone could connect to it. They could do anything. There would be porn, piracy, viruses and spam. Terrorists could put up videos glorifying themselves. ... Which would you have picked?

Imagine a form of software that anyone could copy and change, created under a licence that required subsequent programmers to offer their software under the same terms. Imagine legions of programmers worldwide contributing their creations back into a “commons”. Is this anarchic-sounding method of production economically viable? Could it successfully compete with the hierarchically organised companies producing proprietary, closed code, controlled by both law and technology?

Set yourself the task of producing the greatest reference work the world has ever seen. ... Would you create a massive organisation of paid experts with layers of editors producing tomes that are controlled by copyright and trademark? Or would you wait for hobbyists, scientists and volunteer encyclopedists to produce, and search engines to organise, a cornucopia of information?

We know James is talking about the World Wide Web, the Linux OS and Wikipedia. 15 years ago, would you pick these as winners?

Blackboard's patent story and discussions have been hot recently. Let time travel 15 years forward and with look back, who will you pick as the winner (assuming LMS still makes sense): Blackboard or Moodle?

When will we ever learn?

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