The Wealth of Networks Chapter Review – Chapter 4

@Kevin | Social

In Benkler’s analysis of social production he examines why people in the open source software community operate the way they do. I find it interesting that there is such a diverse group of individuals working on open source software with market and non-market goals fueling their efforts.

“The large free software projects might integrate thousands of people who are acting primarily for social psychological reasons – because it is fun or cool: a few hundred young programmers aiming to make a name for themselves so as to become employable; and dozens of programmers who are paid to write free software by firms that follow one of the nonproprietary strategies described in chapter 2. “ (Benkler, p.102)

This initial group of people that Benkler talks about covers a wide range of people with different motivations for working. These people are considered the heart of the open source community devoting their time and effort into developing the open source software.

In Benkler’s next statement though I have to disagree with the assertion that he makes, “IBM and Red Hat are the quintessential examples of firms that contribute paid employee time to peer-production projects in this form. This form of link between a commercial firm and a peer production community is by no means necessary for peer production to succeed…” (Benkler, p.102)

I think that the involvement of these large firms is key in peer production to really succeed. With these firms comes money, which is something that can really fuel the development in the open source community and help provide platforms for innovation. IBM brought money to the table in the development of open source software when they got involved with Linux, this financial power can help in the development and testing of the product on a level that the open source community can’t support. Other successful open source projects have had a corporate side that is either funded by firms or making a profit on their own. These corporate sides have helped in the further development of the open source platforms that the non-profit sides were producing.

For example take wordpress, their corporate side is a company called Automatic which runs a blog hosting and corporate installation service that is for profit. The software used to run is a server edition of their open source software wordpress , which they developed so it was able to run a large amount of blogs. This server edition is released to the public for free as wordpress Mu. Without the corporate side, the cash that comes with it, and the ability to pay people to focus on the server side fulltime, a server edition of WordPress would probably not exist or if it did would not be the quality that it is where large users such as Havard or newspapers like Le Monde have deployed it.

These corporate partnerships with the open source community help accelerate the growth of the community’s product and help fund changes that might not have been possible in an open source community without corporate involvement.