"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
To me it goes beyond that to tell the stories of individuals who have made a difference thanks to the ability to use social media tools and networks to connect with like-minded people.
While we could acknowledge that intent has been there for people to act on issue affecting their communities and countries, we are gaining a full appreciation of what those movements can do only now.
The lessons on the power of technology for social communication and sharing are valid for businesses, too. The same mechanisms that make something worth talking about go viral, can create a problem of massive proportions for a company if the opinion is of the negative kind.
I'd like to be optimistic and think that we can teach ourselves to use technology for positive ends.
In that light, some of the best case studies in the book can teach us how to go about creating value in business from open source:
- How the programming language Perl beat out AT&T's C++ - the person who teaches in the community learns twice, the person who answers questions gets an improved reputation in the community, plus the overall pattern of distributed and delayed payback (if I take care of you now, someone will take care of me later), is a very practical way of creating social capital.
- What made Linux such a winning open source project - Linus Trovalds' simple request "I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu)... I'd like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promise that I'll implement then :-)" The rest gave us a world-class product by lowering the cost of failure while it managed to increase the passion for participation.
- Open source reduces dramatically the cost of failure - in open systems the cost of trying something enables participants to try a lot of things, fail fast, and build on success as they go. In traditional organizations, trying anything is expensive, even if just in staff time to discuss the idea, so someone must make an attempt to filter the successes from failures in advance. That's how we get very good at what worked before.
Technology is social also because it allows us to share (with tags), then collaborate and aggregate or coordinate. This is the reverse of what we did in a one way world.
The new scope of marketing has just gotten bigger, much bigger. I talk about marketing being an ecosystem with feedback from conversations feeding forward product innovation, touching customers and employees - present, past and future - and gaining speed (in response) and momentum (in fulfilling needs while creating demand or wants).
What do you think? Have you read Clay Shirky's book? How has it changed the way you operate in your business? Are you thinking about open source research or marketing?