Re: [unrev-II] Lifestreams

From: Eric Armstrong (
Date: Mon Apr 03 2000 - 21:00:54 PDT

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    Hirohide Yamada wrote:
    > One way is, and I can not think of the other at this moment, to change
    > the definition of software industry to information utility industry so
    > that we can do business with utility service with open source products.
    Remarkably good thought, that.

    Let's say we have a technology that really makes it possible to capture
    and access knowledge. Only the state of the art in AI makes it *highly*
    likely that access will be frequently mediated by human intervention.
    Example: A knowledge repository for software design patterns. A naive
    question posed to a mailing list will likely require analysis by a human
    expert, who says "take a look at patterns x and y". The repository then
    provides mechanisms for explaining those patterns to the naive user.

    Potential services in this scenario include:
      * Installing the repository software.
        For corporations, that means installing it inside a firewalled
        server and setting up access to external "public" knowledge
        repositories, where appropriate.

      * Training users on how to add to and utilize the repository.

      * Adding the Educational Materials
        A multi-media approach for explaining the repository's contents
        so items in it actually get used -- like writing documentation,
        only better. The Citigroup speaker mentioned that one problem
        general was getting *reuse* to happen, instead of having 5
        independent, redundant projects. I suspect that reuse is a
        function of a) access, and b) understanding. The first barrier
        is knowing that a solution exists. Email and FAQs can help
        answer that. The second problem is understanding what the proposed
        solution is, how it works, and gaining confidence in it. That is
        fundamentally an educational problem.

      * Converting content for a knowledge repository
        If there is a standard "knowledge repository" format, then every
        book, article, movie, or presentation you have ever been exposed
        is a candidate for publishing in that format.

      * Adding Content to A Repository
        If a company has a repository, then selling them packages of
        content for business practices, etc., is a service that will
        grow to become the "publishing" business of the next century.

    Any business plan that proposes to operate in one or more of these
    "knowledge product" businesses will have zero capitalization problems
    stemming from open source software. In fact, open source software will
    be seen as a major benefit because (a) it holds promise of augmenting
    the development team's efforts with external work, (b) it helps to
    promote a standard, thereby "future proofing" a corporations investment
    in the data (which makes one less barrier to acceptance), and (c) it
    means that a corporation is not beholden to any one company, and is
    indemnified against the failure of that corporation (removing another
    potential barrier to acceptance).

    On the other hand, if the knowledge repository software is the sole
    product, then it is a harder task to secure investment. Maybe not an
    impossible one, but definitely harder. The most likely scenario is
    giving away the client and making money on the server. But once
    something like the (free) Apache web server comes along, you are pretty
    well up a creek.

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