Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Open or Closed... The Great Divide

So I picked up a copy of Wired Magazine today, because after work I needed to go to the doctor's and with 2 hours to kill, no books left to read and the library closed, I needed something to keep me entertained.

As I'm reading this mag, not realizing that I'm wasting my time (my doctor appointment is in two weeks, someone got the date wrong), I start reading on websites that are taking advantage of the internet to "crowdsource", a fancy term to say that companies now prefer to pay any average Joe to do the job of a professionnal for a lot less. A stock photo for $1 instead of $150? $10,000 for the solution to a problem that a corporation's R&D department has been strugling to find for months? That's tommorow's news.

There's all sorts of collaborative services on the Internet now, and more are popping up every day. It leads me to think about the everlasting battle between the "open-source" phylosophy and the "closed" one. Take the battle between Internet Explorer and Firefox (see my previous post for an example), where a free software is becoming more secure, fast and user-friendly than something developed by a team of so-called experts cloistered in their little programming bubble at Microsoft.

Personnally, I think that this battle will at one point be a major determinant in humanity's battle for survival, and how the future generations will live and do business. An exageration, you think? Listen to the idea and make your own opinion.

The Open market thrives on user input and collaboration, and mostly everything in this world is free - operating systems, software, even bandwith is now being exchanged and shared by everyone. Google is - in my humble opinion - a big player in this venture, by creating and distributing software as free as it gets (a little advertisement here and there, if any, and Voilà! Free software for the masses). Of course, one cannot mention free and open without thinking of Linux, GNU, sourceforge, and other such major players of the game.

The Closed market on the other hand will push for innovation through internal research, secretive R&D, industrial espionnage and sabotage, etc. The Closed market wants everything to be protected, secured, encrypted... And most important of all, lucrative. Money is the main operative, the ultimate goal, the hand that moves all.

The battle itself in relation to the future is this. On one hand, I see a future where the Closed market reigns, inflation continues, and running software on a budget will become harder every day. With companies like Microsoft creating online licensing, software that runs from the web and payed monthly instead of being purchased, it will eventually become impossible to, say, download Office and run it without paying the ridiculous amount of money MS actually wants you to throw at them. I myself admittingly never payed Microsoft a single penny, and I refuse to pay $300 for Windows, $200 for Office (or whatever the charge for that bloated piece of crap), when there are free solutions available to anyone. When your Operating System becomes costlier than your computer, you've got a problem.

On the other hand, Open systems are cheap, fast, update almost daily, and are almost impervious to hacking and security holes. Again, see my previous post about IE vs. FFox. In the future, if Open takes the larger part of the market, we might start seeing the cost of life actually *drop*, to eventually become null. How? If the model works on the Internet, what's to stop people from applying it to real life? People coming together as a community to build houses on a budget, a return to historical methods of trading goods instead of money, all that might one day become reality again.

That dream is depicted somewhat in worlds like Star Trek, where your valor is based on merit and acheivements, not on money. Ok, so today's weaknesses are also present, such as corruption (without money, that's a weird concept though) and power-hungry megalomaniacs, but at least everyone on the planet gets to live pretty much how they want and do what they love.

I may be seeing too much into this, but maybe in my lifetime we will see the balance tip on the better side of this balance, this world would become a better place. And if someone doesn't actually *need* to work to survive, than maybe - just maybe - humanity could concentrate on the betterment of itself, rather than surviving their own meager individual lives.

And now on a personal note, I need some sleep. I haven't posted in the last month because I've been busy working. I got hired for the night shift at a Second Cup (for your information, the one on the corner of Milton and DuParc, in Montreal), and I'm gradually becoming the favorite employee there. I've realized that Tech Support might not be my true calling, when I see just how satisfying it is to get a smile and a thanks, not because I spent 30 minutes guiding an old hag through double-clicking on an icon on her desktop (for crying out loud lady, it's right fucking there!), but simply because I've just given them their lifeblood: A cup of coffee. As of this moment, I'm never going back to tech support.

Working the nightshift means my social life took a plunge, I'm spending less time with Tiff, but we think it's well worth it because of the higher salary (if I calculate more hours, and the tips), and the possibility to have an amazing reference and possibly a management position before the end of the year - who knows! More on this in my next post.

1 comment:

  1. "Never going back to tech support". Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! Best joke of the year!