The Next Einstein
A hundred years ago (1905), an unknown Swiss patent clerk submitted a paper to the leading physics journal of his day. The clerk had been considered a lazy bum by his college professors and was not considered fit to work in a university.
But this clerk was Albert Einstein. His paper about special relativity fundamentally changed our view of space, time, and the universe.
That's innovation, isn't it?
But what if:
- Einstein could not access existing research in physics, because it was kept "proprietary" in the universities that produced them;
- He could not submit his paper because he was not at a prestigious university;
- There is no way for scientists to work or contribute from remote locations;
- The leading scientists of the day tried to defend their repuation through deliberate Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt;
- There was no accepted process in science of reviewing and validating any contributor's work.
Fortunately for us, though, Einstein and countless other amateur and professional scientists can draw upon openly available knowledge, submit their ideas for peer review, and be accepted by a scientific community.
Open source can do the same thing. It is a derivative of science itself. It creates openly available knowledge, a global community, review by one's peers, and the possibility of being accepted for one's contributions. With this combination, the scientific methodology, with its proven record for innovation, can finally become a force in the software industry.
So it is quite tragic to hear of startups that talk about open source solely as a distribution mechanism and then develop software the old way. It is equally tragic that many projects only accept contributions from their own inner circle, or view other open source projects as "hostiles."
It is encouraging, though, to hear about commercial software vendors adopt and succeed with open source development processes of collaboration and peer review.
After all, don't you want the next Einstein on your team?