Craig Perrin from Collabnet came to talk to the Digital Vision Fellows yesterday. I was riveted. He was talking about how his company has developed a process to harness some of the aspects of codemaking that made open source software projects such as Apache work so well. They have developed an environment called 'SourceCast' that allows for collaboration, knowledge management and software development across publics that may be geographically and/or culturally dispersed. I am always excited when I see how people are attempting to capture the essence of what makes communities thrive and really apply those ideas in a systemmatic way.
It was fascinating to hear Craig outline the politics of codemaking in the open source community and the differences between the 'benevolent dictatorship' model, espoused by Linus Torvald's Linux, and the 'meritocracy' model embraced by projects such as Apache and Open Office.
Talking with Craig, I realised that you need two things for a community project to work: 1. a shared sense of identity and 2. a shared vision for what the community wants to achieve. Craig talked about the idea that it is 'greed, glory and the greater good' that propel us to greater heights. In the open source tradition it's the glory and the greater good that need to be constantly reinforced in order to maintain interest and enthusiasm within the community to achieve the vision that is set out at the project's inception.
As I said to Craig, I don't think that these ideas are limited to software development - they can be applied to art, authorship, music and other 'distributed creativity projects. This is what we're talking about in the Eyebeam's 'Distributed Creativity' mailing list forum which is 'investigating paradigms for artmaking that take advantage of mobile and distributed technologies such as WiFi, Weblogs, Wikis, rich Internet applications, voice over IP and social software'. It's a great forum - and there is lots of interest about South Africa which is always good.