The comments I've been getting have been very helpful—thank you all. One quick request, however. I got the sense from one commenter that he felt I might have been off in my facts. He asked whether I would be publishing my sourcework. The answer is an emphatic yes, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't love a correction now! That's part of the experiment here. I'm posting pre-polished copy. While I'll be scrubbing everything to within an inch of its life before publication, if you see that I've erred, tell me.
I'm going to jump right back in, though not quite where I left off. After my short history of the open source software movement I write about the fateful moment when Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales decided to apply then-new Wiki technology to their online encyclopedia, which was called "Nupedia." The world, suffice to say, hasn't been the same since. I end the chapter with the passage reproduced below, which illustrates how mainstream open source principles have become, and what incredible promise their application holds for a wide range of fields, including one of our government's most moribund agencies, the US Patent and Trademark Office. Without further ado, here's the final segment of Chapter 3: From So Simply a Beginning:
From Peer to Peer to Patents
It’s funny how fate often turns on last-minute decisions. In late October 2005, the Berkeley political scientist Steven Weber was bringing some of the smartest people he knew into a Manhattan conference room to talk about the future of business. Weber and a co-author were writing a book about “open source methods of value creation” and wanted some heavyweights to “beat up our argument.” Invitees included a former adviser to Vice-President Al Gore, an editor from Harvard University Press, and various top executives at New York consulting firms. Then, just one day before the gathering, Weber’s host suggested he invite Beth Noveck, a professor at the New York School of Law and something of a provocateur in the legal fields. Weber vaguely remembered sharing bagels and lox with a smart, self-possessed woman at an Upper West Side deli a few years before, and extended the invitation. Noveck nearly turned Weber down. She was booked all day, she explained, but would try to stop by for an hour or two.
The following day dawned sunny and warm. Weber’s brain trust gathered inside a windowless conference room inside the plush offices of Monitor Consulting Group on Madison Avenue. Noveck showed up shortly after 11 AM. Weber sat her next to David Kappos, a lawyer who managed IBM’s patent portfolio. The two were soon engaged in an intense conversation. Noveck had recently created Do Tank, an online community of lawyers, scholars and students devoted to collaborative efforts at legal reform. Noveck was one of the legal field’s chief proponents of opening closed systems to public scrutiny, and the patent system was right in her cross-hairs.