Wednesday, February 18, 2009

User Innovation Networks

by Jennifer Arcero

User innovative networks are “not suppose to exist “in others words they are anomalies which defy one of the underlying principals of economics. Community innovative projects continue to arise, despite their nature which can seem quite frankly gain less. The benefits from these user innovative projects are hard to detect if one is uninformed of the process and community of users. The tedious nature of code writing causes one to think, “Why would you just simply give away your work?” It just makes sense, user innovative community’s work together to tailor a product which fits their needs. Authors of code generally produce code to create a product to fit their needs avoiding inefficient manufacturers and of course the high cost of manufactured programs.

Programmers release their code to the public but that does not affect the use of their code; they constructed the code to serve their own purpose. Programmers release their “DNA” allowing others in their community to genetically modify their original product thereby allowing the creation of new innovative programs. The programs which arise from the parent “DNA” may be useful for the original writers cause. Sharing the code prevents the “reinvention of the wheel” allowing greater productivity. For example, when a group of scientist mapped the human genome they did not keep their work cooped in their inner circle, instead they allowed other “free riders” to use their findings. Free Riders can provide a service for producers they can find glitches and can add their own knowledge to create a better product. Free riders unknowingly provide a service for the producers. This creates the opportunity for multiple tools to stem from one central source. The community can then create more specific and tailored programs which will better fit the community’s special interest. The easiest way to explain this is “if you want things done right… Do it yourself! Who else can better design a tool than the person seeking the new tool? This is a new and innovative path to acquiring what you want faster, better and cheaper.

The effectiveness of user innovation is surprising, the structure and the communication within the group is impressive. The question is how sustainable is this system? If one cornerstone of the system fails will it all fall? Yes, the open source network is dependent on passion, organization and recognition without structured community and the aspiration to become part of the “core” is removed. The sense of earning respect and weighted say is essential to open source because it drives the ability of a group to maintain its project goals. The "open" in open source is one of the major components essential to the survival of the open source project themselves. The generosity of the authors positively affects their group as well as themselves. Peer review and revision helps eliminate or at the least detect errors more efficiently. Allowing the creation of a better product, where not just a select few review but the masses come together to peer review one another’s work. As Hippel explains, open source is the proof that communities can create product without the middle man. The elimination of this middle man will increase the potential for growth and extended innovation. My question is how open source is affecting the way we operate, what if open source can lead to group based mass production rather than the corporate based production. Shifting the way corporate America works? This is obviously an idealistic hope, which would most definitely result in the reinvention of corporate and manufacturing system. The real question is, will this change be better for our market??
It will be interesting to see how open source changes the way we operate as consumers, will we lose respect for the professional photographers, will we never pay for another program or will we just demand lower prices and better product in order to compete with the freeware out there. The internet and freeware is undeniably changing the manner in which society operates but because we are currently living the change it is hard to evaluate the extent of its influence over our lives and how this is changing the way we operate and it may be possible that our entire lives is moving online, whether working collaboratively online, creating and sharing online.

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