Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Web Tools

In this session JP Rangaswami and Jeremy Ruston share their story of transitioning BT to an Open Source company. Rather than try to anticipate the fast changing needs of their customers they are asking them, and letting them create their own tools and applications that can run on BT's all-IP network. JP explains that innovation takes place at the edge of the network but that in order for that to happen people need the tools to innovate. Jeremy created TiddlyWiki (which is a really, really cool open source Wiki platform that can be stored locally as well as on a shared folder or web server) - JT explains the three main points:

1. Output can be used anywhere else – no one owns it, any one can use it, anyone can improve it (you only bring it back to BT if you want to use their network).
2. The tools allow the innovation to take place in the consumers hands
3. They don't dictate the information allowing each person to make their own translation of what to do with it

When asked how to monetize this idea, JT uses American idol as an example. Fox could have charged to entry into the contest and made voting free but no one would have joined. "It's important to keep the barriers of entry low," he explains. You can go into it locking people in trying to figure out how to make money from it. He then offers a few examples of how they can build a business care around support, services, hosting or consulting among other things. But more importantly he notes "what we know it that we see more innovation and faster growth by opening it up to the users than we can ever see inside."

Going open source is definitely a hot trend these days - I believe it was the tipping point for Facebook making them the #1 social networking site. But is there a breaking point? How many companies can turn to open source before people stop paying attention or will that ever happen?

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