An Open Source Principle: One Good Thing Leads To Another
Remember the 1980s Fixx song One Thing Leads To Another? The lyrics to that song play with the idea that one misbegotten thing, such as a lie, can lead to more insidious things. Perhaps the flip side of that idea has some merit, too, and exploring the fertile territory that surrounds a good idea can lead to other good ideas on a quick basis. If you think about it, that last concept is very central to how the best aspects of open source work.
When creators create, they don't always imagine the natural paths that their creations will take over time. After all, the "geniuses" who founded Apple Computer had the original idea of creating a better word processor--one that, unlike a typewriter, could cut and paste text. Of course, Apple Computer has moved beyond that idea.
In open source, the idea that the endgame for a project won't necessarily closely resemble the origin is a given, not a surprise. It's part of the point of open source. If you look at what's going on on the open source scene, now, you see this concept being played out all around.
Sure, there are examples of projects that eventually stumbled due to unforeseen chaos and entropy. That can happen for any number of reasons, ranging from wavering commitment on the part of project founders to random project handoffs in the wake of business acquisitions (some of this insidious stuff is going on with Sun's open source projects right now).
But, on the flip side, witness how many platforms Google's Android OS is reaching out to. Did Google originally foresee how many hardware platforms the OS would arrive on, or how much support it would get from handset makers? Furthermore, Google's Chrome OS is about to come out, and bears a very synergistic relationship to the Successful Chrome browser. There are direct relationships between the two, and between them and Android. Likewise, Linux is spreading out to embedded devices and looking better than ever on the desktop--entirely a result of open source tweaking and experimentation.
It's hard to sit, without available prompts, and cook up a truly great idea. But to the left and right of exisiting ideas, there is fertile ground. Many prominent open source projects capitalize on this idea, and the part that keeps it interesting is that nobody knows, when a project is launched, exactly what the endgame will look like.
Image courtesy of Flickr user livingonimpulse.