[cc-community] licenses, Bazaars, Cathedrals, and the Kobayashi Maru

Greg London email at greglondon.com
Sun May 28 04:22:23 EDT 2006


: In the Star Trek fictional universe, the Kobayashi Maru is
: a graded training exercise in which cadets are presented with
: a no-win scenario as a test of character at Starfleet Academy.

So, say you have a project you have in mind.
Doesn't matter what it is, but the project
produces some intellectual work in the end.
It could be an encyclopedia, an operating
system, a movie, a music album, whatever.

Say also that you have it in your mind that
you want the end product, the intellectual
work that you want to produce, to be FLOSS.

However, say that the nature of the project
in mind is such that it is unchunkable and
does not naturally lend itself to Bazaar style

And finally, say that you have no millionaire
bank account, or access to one, so that you
cant hire someone to do the work cathedral
style and then donate the product to the
commons. You must use Bazaar style.

You have a no-win situation.

I recall watching Kirk explain on Wrath of Khan
that when he was presented with the Kobayashi Maru
test, he won the no-win situation by cheating,
by reprogramming the computer simulation,
and I remember thinking how cheesy it was.

But tonight, I couldn't stop thinking about
an unchunkable project that you also want to
be FLOSS. And then I remembered that Kirk's
emphasis wasn't on "cheating". He actually
said he had "changed the rules of the game"
or something to that effect. (Someone else
called it cheating, I believe)

If you were to go back in time to, say, 1800,
and you wanted to produce an encyclopedia,
the only viable solution was to use a
Cathedral style approach. And if you didn't
have access to a deep pocket, you'd have to
borrow some money, hire people to create that
encyclopedia, and then hope you could make the
money back selling copies of the books
door to door.

A collaboritive, Bazaar style encyclopedia in
1800 would have been an impossible, no win,
situation, because communication then was
by quill, parchment, and inkwell, delivered
by horse, taking weeks or months.

So, why is a floss encyclopedia today no longer
a no-win situation? Because someone changed
the rules. Widespread use of computers, high
speed internet communications, and wiki software
that allowed collaboritive editing, all changed
the rules so that a floss encyclopedia built up
from a Bazaar-style model is achievable.

So, now, take some other project that is being
kicked around today, that wants to produce some
kind of FLOSS work with a bazaar model, but can't.
(or at least can't on a scale like wikipedia CAN)

Say Alice wants an internet radio station that
does nothing but broadcast FLOSS music 24/7,
or an array of stations for different types
of music, and also has a "studio" for artists
to create and contribute new music.

Well, it doesn't work. And it's not because
there aren't a lot of people who think the
idea would be really cool. It's because for
one reason or another, its a no-win situation.
In this particular example, I'd point to the
unchunkability of music creation as the problem.
Unchunkability prevents Bazaar development,
makes the project impossible.

So, what do you do?

This is where I was stuck for most of today,
and then I heard Kirk say, not that he cheated,
but that he "changed the rules".

A quick look at the massively successful floss,
bazaar-style projects would seem to indicate that
the rules changed, the no-win scenario became winable,
and then someone came along and said, "we should do this".
No one said "we should do this" and then figured out
how to change some fundamental rule to the game.

The only significant point where someone said
"lets change the rules" to make the no-win game
into a winable game was with the creation of
copyleft. These licenses were needed to protect
bazaar-style projects as they developed over time.

So, the floss, bazaar-style, radio station idea
is currently a no win scenario. It can't be done.
But that doesn't mean it can NEVER be done.
The thing is to get that the rules need to be
changed to make it a winable game.

No, not another license. That isn't the problem anymore.
If you want a bazaar-style project, then you will want
straight copyleft. If you use straight copyleft and
the project doesn't work, then it isn't the license
that's the problem, it's something about the project.

We've got widespread computer availability, high speed
internet, wiki's, but that isn't enough. There is some
tool missing that, once written, would change the
no-win scenario into a win-win scenario. This is where
the focus needs to be. Someone, probably someone who
knows more about music and/or programming than I do,
needs to figure out why music isn't chunkable, and
create a tool that makes it more chunkable. And you'll
know you've figured it out because if you don't use it to
create a FLOSS radio station on a website, someone
else will. Anyone can win a win-win scenario.

so, if you have an idea for a project, that would
produce a floss-licensed intellectual work via a
bazaar-style method, and it currently isn't taking
off, the thing to figure out is what tool needs to
be invented that will change the rules so you're
not playing a no-win situation any more.

All the win-win scenarios are already being played.
If the technology and tools already existed, someone,
somewhere, has probably already kicked off the project.

What's left are a bunch of no-win games. project ideas
that, for one reason or another, can't be won today.
Which means that the key to such a project succeeding
isn't thinking of the project (or crafting yet another
fricking license), but figuring out how to change the
rules of the game so that it becomes winable.

Bounty Hunters: Metaphors for Fair IP laws

More information about the cc-community mailing list