Doc Searls: DIY-IT: How Open Source is Turning IT into a DIY Marketplace


Doc is speaking on DIY-IT, his view of how OSS is turning IT into a do-it-yourself marketplace. This talk was added just today and I'm glad to see Doc on the program. He's always got something interesting to say and further, he says it in an interesting way. Doc's July column for Linux Journal is Linux for Suits: How Linux Makes Companies Smarter and I'm confident that's related to what he's going to say today.

Every story has three parts: a story is about a (1) character with a (2) problem moving toward (3) resolution. Doc says this is why sports is so popular. Good characters thicken their own plots (tell me about it). War metaphors are great for describing problems "MS Preps Assaults on Linux." Doc says that marketing people fail to tell a compelling story when they try to portray the company as perfect (i.e. no problems).

There are two stories about Linux in the enterprise: the outside story about what vendors are doing for the customer and the inside story about what customers are doing for themselves (may or may not involve vendors). The first story is about attractive executives doing battle for their customers. The second story is about poorly dressed geeks. Which is easier to tell?

Doc tells some inside stories. The first is about Roland Smith and LSI Logic. The second is about Leon Chism and Orbitz. The third is Greg Thompson and UCAR (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research). The fourth story is Elliot Noss and Tucows. The fifth story is about Paul Perry and Verizon (who as on my panel at the Weblog Business Strategy Conference). The sixth story is David Pippenge and Yarde Metals.

The outside view is simple: vendor gives goods and services to customer in exchange for money. There are plenty of stories that tell well in that context. The real world is more complex with developer communities surrounding all this that interact on both the vendor and customer side. The use value of IT in this context is much greater than the transactional value of IT in the simple view. Most of what happens in this context doesn't tell well with the usual story metaphors about sports and war. There are stories.

The software industry is still growing up. The software industry is maturing into something like the construction industry. "We work in crews on projects." Do-it-yourself (DIY) is at the heart of getting stuff done. OSS is making DIY-IT possible. Its how the demand side supplies itself without a vendor relationship. That doesn't make vendor relationships bad, but you don't always have to go outside to solve a problem. Commercial vendor tools also drive the DIY-IT.

The construction industry is the oldest industry and is worth $2 trillion worldwide. Sharing know-how is natural in the construction industry. Doc makes a joke about a construction worker claiming his way of hanging a door is protected IP to a big laugh. Commodities are okay in the construction industry and big companies make good money in those commodity businesses. There's room for everyone in the construction industry because people are always trying to get things done and you've got to build things to do that. These are all good metaphors for where the software industry is headed.