Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Tim O'Reilly - Publisher to Prophet

Tim O'Reilly is best known for publishing very thick and very heavy books on X Windows and all flavors of Unix. I used to see him hanging out with his crew at the SCO annual developers' event, at NetWorld and at Interop. Have you ever noticed how many great UNIX programmers are Irish? I remember these three, questionably documented young lads at Quarterdeck in Santa Monica back in the day. They were responsible for putting DESQviewX together, and that was a piece of work. As part of the attendant promotional effort for the product, the Quarterdeck team including moi, handed out hundreds of copies of O'Reilly programming manuals. Damn near broke my back. The inflatable DESQviewX blimps were a lot more fun.

So Tim's morphed into a web 2.0 guru these days, not an unexpected evolutionary advance. His blog: O'Reilly Radar is timely and authoritative. He recently defined the new frontier as: "Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (This is what I've elsewhere called 'harnessing collective intelligence.')". That begs the question: what does an application that has gotten "better" through harnessing network effects look like? Wikis come to mind. I wonder, however, if it is really the application that "gets better" through harnessing collective intelligence, or the quality of output? Maybe it's a moot point, and that's the point.

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