BC v. Silicon Valley, Pt. III

I’ve been taking more breaks from writing lately, but a particularly invigorating discussion with Perry Atwal (one of my colleagues from the Sauder MBA Program, and currently the school’s Director of Special Projects) and a separate thoughtful conversation with Kevin Cheng (my former SFU Engineering Science colleague and housemate) reminded me that I needed to revisit the “BC versus Silicon Valley” thread. I’ve already examined the benefits that population density and a networking-addicted community bestow on Silicon Valley – it seems logical now to turn to one of the results of those two elements: a propensity for thinking big.

When I lived in Ireland during 2000, I went to a lot of First Tuesday meetings to watch how people were trying to take advantage of the ‘Celtic tiger’ to make their fortunes. Unfortunately, a lot of the ideas I saw being pitched were wholesale replicas of existing (and very successful, mind you) online businesses in Silicon Valley, such as eBay. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing – taking an idea and refining it for the local market is a valid strategy. However, the lack of barriers to entry into the Irish market for an existing Silicon Valley online business, coupled with the relatively small Irish market, doomed many of these businesses to failure. Many of these entrepreneurs just weren’t thinking very big.

For example, at one meeting I talked to one bunch of bright-eyed young entrepreneurs who were pitching a video game based on hurling. Hurling is a notoriously brutal sport that is best described as a cross between field-hockey and lacrosse – the sport is indigenous to Ireland. When I asked the students if it had crossed their mind that perhaps they were limiting themselves by choosing a game with such limited appeal, they balked, exclaiming, “Everyone loves hurling! Everybody in Ireland loves it, and nearly everyone in Ireland plays video games! Everyone in Ireland will buy our game!” Wow – everyone in Ireland? Even if they were right and everyone in Ireland did buy their game, they would still have one major problem: Ireland has a population of less than 5 million people. Once they sold the game to everyone in Ireland, they’d have no place to go.

Then again, maybe that’s all they wanted to do. They wanted to sell their 5 million units, take their money off the table, and retire. And there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a perfectly reasonable thing for an individual entrepreneur to want to do. It’s when an entire society of entrepreneurs do the same thing that one has to be concerned.

The entrepreneurial environment in Vancouver doesn’t differ significantly from Ireland – it thinks small. It’s rare to see an entrepreneur in BC stand up and say, “Screw you world! I’m going to own this market!” Just look at Crystal Decisions – they were one of the leaders in the business intelligence space, but when Business Objects made them an offer, they rolled over, took the money, and retired. BC’s entrepreneurs are very good at taking their money off the table, quickly and permanently, and retiring in Whistler.

While cashing out is every entrepreneur’s dream, the difference between Silicon Valley and BC is that in Silicon Valley, the entrepreneur doesn’t stay out of the game very long. They dive back in, onto the next big thing, the next market to be chased. Sure, they’re in the game for the money, but they’re also there for the adventure. Adventure implies risk – big payoffs are balanced against headfirst failures. Unfortunately, BC has an overly-conservative attitude to risk and is fond of neither the possibility of big failures nor, as a result of this aversion, big payoffs. This conservative attitude immunizes it against most of the elements required to foster the ecosystem that sustains good entrepreneurs. This is a real shame because BC has otherwise a lot of characteristics that could make it a world leader in many areas – it just needs a cultural shift to make it possible. Regrettably, cultural shifts are the hardest to achieve.

Next time: Recognizing Success

Now We Are 30

I had my 30th birthday this weekend. Hmm. That seemed to come around awfully quickly. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it just seemed odd that it was just another day. What’s the big deal?

Remind me again – when do I turn into an adult?

Googling for Crooks

Received the following email from my father on a recent criminal case cracked via Google:

Last night there was a documentary on the CBC on a cold case. This cop had a 100% success rate on cold cases and took on the case of a plane that had been hijacked from Thunderbay (en route to Toronto) to Cuba. All he had to go on was the hijacker’s name and a thumb print they managed to lift from a pop can. The hijacker disappeared into the cane fields of Cuba.

His first tool, would you believe, was a Google search on the name. There was only one hit who turned out to a high school history teacher in the states. To cut a long story short: he was the guy. When arrested his comment was “What took you so long?”

The guy was a black social activist in the 60’s who got involved with the Black Panthers and a bank robbery. The robbery went bad and he fled to Canada. Convinced that the law was hot on his trail he boarded a local flight in Thunderbay and, armed with a revolver, demanded the side trip to Cuba. The irony of the story is that flights from Canada to Cuba were, and still are, legal. All he had to do was buy a ticket.

Of course he was tried and convicted of the hijacking and received a three year sentence which he has since served. He is now back in the mainstream and because of his record he could no longer teach.

Autolink Revisited

I was, unfortunately, flying between Chicago, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City when the whole Google Toolbar Autolink kafuffle occurred, and so I didn’t have a chance to comment on the phenomenon at the time. No matter. Instead, I’ll pretend that I’ve been sitting back and carefully pondering the topic, waiting for the right time to unleash my thoughts on the world. Yeah, that’s it.

Reviewing the discourse, it’s clear the arguments fall into two lines of thought:

  • The user is God: Whatever the user wants, the user should get. After all, the content is rendered on the local machine – how is what Google doing any different than existing toolbar plugins that scrape away ads and spyware, or otherwise alter the content to enable accessibility? And isn’t anything that makes the user’s life easier, even if by altering content, a Good Thing? Cory Doctorow plays ringleader in this court.
  • The content developer is God: How dare you sully my precious content with links that I, the content provider/developer, did not deem worthy of inclusion. I demand the right to opt out! Chief adherents to this line of thinking: Dave Winer

There were others who started on one side of the argument, then flip-flopped and ended up on the other side. In the end, reasonable suggestion from Robert Scoble, Tim Bray, and others came to discover the universal truth in debates such as these: the reasonable answer lies somewhere in between the extremes.

I found it ironic that Dave Winer, patron saint of the user came down on the side of content producers (or “developers”), given his historic railings against developer-centric thinking about software applications. To his credit, Cory Doctorow remained quite consistent in his vision of “user’s rights”, applying the same “right to remix” arguments he uses against DRM technologies.

In my opinion this was not an argument so much about what the Google Toolbar currently does, but rather what it (or other applications like it) could do in the future. If it’s acceptable to allow insertion of links, would it be OK to change existing links or add new text in such a way as to alter the original vision or intent of the author. Would we effectively be allowing Google to put words in author’s mouths? Much of this ignored, I believe, that Google has no real interest in what any particular author has to say. They’re simply interested in helping people find what they’re looking for, and automatically linking ISBNs to Amazon.com and addresses to Google Maps seems like a good mechanism.

While I agree with Scoble’s assertion that there need to be some rules about linking in order to prevent competing toolbars engaging in “link fights“, I would argue against his assertion that autolinking could result in a “wall-garden”. As things stand right now, services like Yahoo Maps, Mapquest, and others have become deeply embedded in the web as more and more people link to them – but what happens if something new (like Google Maps) comes along that a reader prefers? Tough! Those links still point to the services dictated by the page author.

Imagine instead a toolbar that would allow you to select your favorite application for “classes” of links (links to movies, links to books, links to maps, etc) – this would help smooth the way to dislodge obsolete services from the web and help migrate users transparently to newer, more innovative services faster. In an ideal world it would be nice if content producers could signal to a browser, “This is a movie link to ‘Forrest Gump’ – if the user clicks this link, take them to their preferred vendor for movies (Amazon.com, Netflix, Blockbuster, whatever), or if none is available, take them to Amazon.com). Oh, and here’s all my affiliate IDs for these services, in case the user buys something”.

Unfortunately, this would require authors to change their content to provide this meta-data. Would the web be willing to exchange their ideals of absolute author rights in exchange for an autolinking mechanism that mapped existing URLs to a user’s preferred service provider for a given “class” of URL? I’m not sure. And, of course, this entirely ignores the other question about autolinking: is altering the author’s content in this fashion even legal?

Should You Do An MBA?

Every couple of months, one of my (usually techie) friends asks me for advice on an MBA. The form of the question itself varies (“Hey, what did you think of your MBA?”, or “Do you think an MBA is a worthwhile use of my time?”), but the underlying themes are the same: reassure me that this is the right, best, easiest, or most sure-fire way to get me more money, status, or success. Rather than handle these requests one-on-one, I figured I might as well post my thoughts here and save everybody some time.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I was somewhat bitter with my own MBA program. Perhaps it had something to do with the 321% increase in fees. Or the 20% of my fees that went to pay the tuition of someone who was likely in no worse a financial position than I. Take my advice, as always, with a grain of salt.)

After a year in the workforce, I can’t say that the education provided by my MBA was especially insightful. While the program and its material certainly provide a framework for thinking about business problems (hint: everything can be expressed as a two-by-two matrix), if you’ve got a good head on your shoulders and can think in a critical fashion, then the MBA won’t hold many surprises for you. If your background is science or engineering, or you have a healthy appetite for reading and thinking, the MBA is a breeze.

That said, there are a few key things I learned in the MBA program that I will share with you:

  • Nobody can write to save their lives: It’s shocking, but most people simply can’t string together sentences in a clear, concise fashion while presenting a position on a given topic. Everybody has a weapon of choice that they wield mercilessly against the English language: run-on sentences, improper punctuation, improper capitalization, incorrect use of homophones (for example: there, their, they’re), and just plain bad grammar. My advice? Start a blog and write regularly – at least you’ll end up sounding more intelligent, even if you haven’t increased the amount of knowledge in your noggin.
  • Nobody can use a computer: Despite the fact that people my age were supposed to be the Computer Generation, I can assure you that this is simply not the case. Most of my classmates were hopeless with a computer. Nobody could use Word or Excel to their maximum potential to execute a task as easily or as quickly as possible. It does make one wonder: how much of the productivity “savings” promised by computing have been eroded by the overhead caused by operator error?
  • Most people can’t manage their time: Half the time, people in my class were running around like loons trying to get their homework done at the last minute. A little bit of planning and regular execution can go a long way. You don’t need an MBA program to learn this.
  • A significant proportion of the population can’t present to a group: Presenting is an art – it takes time to master, and regular practice. Did you know most people fear presenting more than they fear death? Sign yourself up for Toastmasters or an acting class. Half the battle is gaining self-confidence.

Looking at these weaknesses, I actually have a greater appreciation for my undergraduate engineering degree at SFU. The Engineering Science program at SFU specifically taught us how to present, how to write, how to interview, and numerous other life-skills that I don’t think most students obtain in their undergraduate degree, nevermind an MBA program. Special recognition is deserved by Steve Whitmore and Susan Stevenson for their efforts.

Despite my disappointment in my own MBA program, would I do it again?

As reluctant as I am to say it, I would have admit that even knowing what I know now about the MBA program, I would still do it again. Sure, the program doesn’t live up to its expectations. It’s certainly not the ticket to guaranteed success that it once was. But, frankly, if you’re looking to cross the chasm between one career and another (technology and business in my case), this is probably the best route. I’m not saying it’s the only route – you could always just pull yourself up by your boots and hope you get the right experience to get where you’re going – this one at least comes with a piece of paper that people can easily recognize.

That’s it, I hear you saying, a piece of paper?

Yes, if nothing more the MBA will get you a piece of paper that will allow an employer to more easily classify you when you apply for a job. You see, it’s not about being better than other applicants for a job – employers have little, if any, ability to discern between the resume of a good employee and that of a bad employee. If it comes down to you and another applicant of equal skill, and he has an MBA and you don’t, guess who gets the job? Unfortunate, but true. If you’re lucky, it’ll give you a little extra life experience, some exposure to people from other backgrounds, and some time to think about where you want to go in life once you’ve received your newly-minted MBA. And even if you’re bucking for an entrepreneurial life, an MBA is a nice backup plan to have in case your dreams of being the next Bill Gates turn sour.

On that note, it’s probably best to give some parting advice to those who still wish to pursue an MBA:

  • Know what to expect: The fact that you’re here means that you’re doing some research. That’s good. Talk to people from the MBA program you intend to attend. Try to find people from all different backgrounds to get a balanced view.
  • Prepare for a lifestyle change: Depending on the length of program, you could be in school for between fifteen and twenty-four months. That’s twenty-four months where you’ll probably put a lot of the rest of your life on hold while you attend school. Think about it. Talk about it with your spouse or significant other.
  • Understand the whole cost: People look at the price tag of a typical MBA and balk. But that’s just the beginning. Don’t forget books. And rent. And booze. And student fees. And the opportunity cost (you won’t be working, remember?). Taking the program is a serious undertaking, and you need to be prepared to carry it through. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
  • Understand why you want to do an MBA: I would recommend you don’t consider an MBA until you’ve got at least three or four years of work experience under your belt. You’ll need that experience to shape what you hope to achieve by taking an MBA. I would also warn against focusing on the short-term. You’re not going to step out of the MBA and be handed the CEO position. You probably won’t even know how to manage people. You’re going to be back to square one, just like when you came out of undergrad. The only way to avoid this disappointment is to have a game plan on where you want to be in five, ten, or fifteen years, and view the MBA as a minor detour on the road to your inevitable future success. If you have to, write a retirement speech to figure out where you want to go in life.
  • Do something new: When choosing a specialization in your MBA (if there is such a thing in the program you attend), try doing something with little or nothing to do with your undergraduate degree or work experience. Why pay for what you already know? If you’re a technologist, avoid IT or “e-Business” specializations. Nobody likes paying $20K just to learn HTML. This goes double for those with a commerce or business undergrad degee (in fact, those with such a degree should probably avoid the MBA altogether – nothing new to see here, move along).

And one last thing – all MBA programs are the same, as far as I’m concerned, in all regards except one: the network of alumni they offer. If there were one piece of advice I would give a prospective MBA student, it would be to heavily research the alumni network of the MBA program to which you’re applying. While the MBA programs themselves may not differ, the opportunities afforded by past graduates vary greatly and are probably the one thing that differentiate the programs and their ability to shape your future success. Choose wisely.

The DMV Dance Continues

It hasn’t even been a year since I managed to navigate the DMV gauntlet and yet, sigh, here I find myself again. My car’s registration has already expired, due to the fact that the original registration, despite not being finalized for nine months, was originally filed in January.

Normally, the DMV sends a reminder but it seems, big surprise, they forget to send one to me. Without the reminder, I don’t have the special registration identification number (RIN) I need to be able to renew my registration online or over the phone. Today, I decided to give them a call to see if I could either renew my registration without the number, or if I could get them to provide me with my RIN.

Holy cow. Talk about Brazil coming to life.

The telephone system was completely useless. Now, this is hardly surprising – all of these systems are useless for answering all but the most braindead questions. I punched through to the operator line, only to have to sit through a 30-second description of what I needed to have ready (driver’s license, license plate number), a notice that the call might be monitored, and a warning that if I gave false information, the DMV would press criminal charges. Alright, already, gimme an operator!

And then it told me there were no operators available, and suggested that my problem would probably be better served by the automated menu of snappy answers to stupid questions that I had already traversed to arrive at this point. Argh.

Not satisfied, I hit “0” and tried again. This time (after going through the 30-second warning message again) I got transferred into an actual holding queue (with hold music and everything!). And after twenty seconds, a woman’s voice came on:

“Thank you for holding. You are so important to us. Please stay on the line and then next technician will assist you. Please ask for the technician’s ID number. Thank you for allowing us to serve you and have a wonderful day.”

And then it hung up.

No, I’m not kidding…the DMV apparently considers me so important, it is not worthy of speaking to me at all.

Thinking it was a fluke, I tried yet again. And I failed yet again.

What the hell are these people smoking? I mean, how does this solve any problem for the DMV? It wastes its “customers'” time, DMV resources, and doesn’t help them get their job done any faster. No wonder people are driving around with expired registrations from four years ago on their out-of-state license plates.

Micro-Fads, Micro-Markets

A couple weeks ago, Stephen Colbert pointed to a URL that I assumed was fake. Of course, I immediately hit it, and was shocked to find that not only did it exist, it was hawking Cafepress wares directly related to the episode. Weirdness! Even weirder: the domain had only been registered that day.

Coincidence? Although one could be led to believe that this was a set-up by some clever (read: underpaid) Daily Show staffer, I’m actually willing to believe it’s an example of the increase in speed at which individual small-time entrepreneurs are acting to capture transient markets that exist on only very compressed time scales. When you think about it, these entrepreneurs have an extremely narrow window of opportunity – in this particular case, the entrepreneur only had maybe three hours between the broadcast in New York and the re-broadcast on the west coast. That’s three hours to register a domain, configure a web server to host the domain, create a few web pages and a Cafepress store, and generate artwork to host in the store.

Granted, an intrepid hacker in the Daily Show audience may have had most of the requisite resources at their disposal already, and simply registered the domain via their smartphone, thereby buying themselves another half-dozen hours. Still, even considering the relatively simple and amateurish nature of both the web site and its wares, it’s still a pretty neat trick. It takes an action-oriented individual with the means to pull disparate pieces together and get anything done so quickly. When’s the last time you built a web-based business in three to six hours?

Probably never, I’m guessing.

I saw this same stunt repeated in the wake of Bill Gate’s “creative communists” remark recently. Instantly, artists pillaged Cold-War era Soviet propaganda, reworked it into a Creative Commons motif, and released it to the world. Most popular: the Creative Commies T-Shirt – for $5!

While I’m impressed by this phenomenon, I’m not willing to believe that all businesses are necessarily suited to this model of action-reaction. In many ways, this is just the evolution of the same phenomenon that drove people to sell “I survived the Generic Natural Disaster of This Month” t-shirts with some success. However, the omnipresent nature of the web gives us a view into the things people want, and underlines the fact that opportunity is everywhere. The more tools we have, the easier it gets to throw together something that’s relatively successful in a short period of time, bootstrapped, in part, by the temporary focus of public attention on a short-lived phenomenon.

This trend has its advantages and its disadvantages. Although it has the power to help anyone create a product quickly, most of these products are inevitably something that can be created easily. Doesn’t this just focus on the impulse? Can anything truly worthwhile in the long term be created with such haste? I’m still chewing on that question – I’d like to say “no”, but I can think of instance where markets have coalesced quickly, mostly due to intersection of shifts in social attitudes, costs of production, and other reactants for change.

I’m inclined to say that just because it’s fast, doesn’t mean it’s worthless.

Not “Tivoted”

It’s timely that Jeff Jarvis, Fred Wilson, and Om Malik have started kvetching about how to save TiVo. Just last night, I downloaded the TiVo Home Media Engine SDK to see if there was something worthwhile tinkering with. To be honest, I was kind of shocked at limited functionality provided by the SDK.

I was originally interested in creating a nice little application to destroy the TV broadcast model – you know, for fun! When I heard the TiVo SDK was based on Java, I figured I’d have everything I needed. I knew that the TiVo SDK didn’t allow video playback, but I thought I would be able to use the Java Media Framework to render Flash content. With a little tinkering, I figured I should be able to stitch together a simple app to push vodcasting a little closer to reality. Boy was I wrong.

The whole approach taken by the TiVo HME SDK is extremely limiting. Basically it’s a client-server approach that requires an application to live on a separate PC running the application, which sends commands over TCP/IP to the receiver (i.e. the TiVo box). While an application can stream audio or send images to the TiVo, no capabilities are provided for displaying video. Oh, I suppose if you were really desperate for this capability, you could hack together a solution that renders frames to a Graphics2D context, which could then be rendered as an image on the TiVo – but I’m guessing the performance would be horrible. And, anyway, as a developer I’m really not interested in hacking together codecs, I’m interested in writing applications.

I guess what bugs me about the SDK more than anything is that TiVo seems to be operating under the delusion that erecting fences around what a developer can access on a TiVo is a good idea. If TiVo is really serious, they need to look at allowing developers on the device itself (legitimately, I mean, as opposed to the current method for extending TiVo’s capabilities). Of course, TiVo seems to be happy enough to snub the cable companies, but not ballsy enough to really take on the established model – maybe we’ll have to wait for Akimbo for that?

C’mon TiVo, if you want a million flowers to bloom, you’ve got to give us everything! Give us a method to put code on the device (I mean, seriously, what average consumer is going to run stuff on another machine). Let us manipulate data! Let applications like mGrok (Disclosure: the guys behind mGrok are friends of mine) get access to raw MPEG data and build applications that enable people to get more out of their TiVo, their recorded shows, or content downloaded from the net. If you really want to beat Windows Media Center and continue to lead the industry you created, you’re going have to provide unlimited access (maybe you should follow Scoble’s suggestion and allow media-centric companies like Orb to solutions on top of your platform that don’t require yet another application on their home computer).

If you’re not prepared to bet all of your chips, it’s time to get out of the game.

The Other Deep Web

Ashley and I went up to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair today. It was truly a humbling experience in many ways. While a large number of the cracked and creaking volumes in the fair were of little interest (there seemed to be an overabundance of antique fishing books for some reason), there were a few astounding gems.

Of particular interest were the original scientific volumes. A first edition copy of Newton’s “Opticks“. Treatises by Galileo, Copernicus, and Descartes. An original copy of Einstein’s publication introducing the theory of general relativity, and another introducing the photo-electric effect. A first edition of the King James Bible. A first edition copy of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” (a limited edition bound in asbestos). But why do these books matter? We know the words, the ideas, and the illustrations. What’s left to captivate us? I pondered this while watching a woman nearly suffer an emotional implosion while examining some obscure volume of philosophy that obviously held some powerful sway over her.

I guess in some way, we all look to try to get closer to the original author of some book that meant something to us. To try to get inside them. Maybe if we can reach back in time far enough through these books, we think, we can actually touch their authors’ greatness (and maybe some of what they had will rub off on us). While it starts innocently enough – a first edition here, a copy signed by the author there, an original marked up copy of the manuscript, etc. – but sometimes it gets truly weird.

At some point today the obsessive nature of the antiquarian book trade became readily apparent when I found one vendor selling Robert Louis Stevenson’s matriculation card from the University of Edinburgh. It’s one thing to like the guy’s books, it’s entirely another to want to own the card attesting to his status as a university graduate. That’s kicking it up a notch. In another area, I found a copy of Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog” originally owned by Theodore Roosevelt, along with a personal letter from Roosevelt attesting to how much it meant to him. How ironic.

Internet geeks have been talking for years about the “deep web” – the dark matter of the Internet universe that remains hidden from the pervasive prying eyes of voyeur search engines. While the term is often applied to data curtained behind corporate firewalls, today the term took on a new meaning for me. Today, it referred to all the ancient “obsolete” knowledge trapped in ancient volumes that would never be visited by Googlebot, or scanned by Amazon. Today, it referred to the collective emotion of the human race for the books and authors they love. There’s no indexing that.

Next Gen Open Source?

Like a few other geeks, I’ve lately been reading Paul Graham’s excellent Hackers and Painters. Most insightful, especially in light of the success of Google and Flickr, is Paul’s views on the advantages of “weblications” over traditional desktop software. Recently, I started wondering about how the transition to web-based services would ultimately affect the Open Source movement.

I’m not alone in this line of thinking, of course. I rarely am. There was a discussion recently on the nature of Google’s contribution to Open Source, in light of an accusation by Krzysztof Kowalczyk that Google (and any other large web-based service) was essentially bleeding the Open Source community for cheap code, and giving little back in return. While Adam Bosworth’s response highlighted the value that people got for free from Google every day, I think he did evade the central thrust of Kowalczyk’s argument, namely that an individual company’s incentives prevented it from contributing back to the Open Source community except when absolutely necessary.

It does illustrate the main hole created by ambiguity in the licenses used to protect Open Source or even “Open Culture” works. Because these licenses are ambiguous about the meaning of “derivative” works, it opens a gap through which companies can fit in order to carve out a commercial enterprise (and I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing). For example, a company can build a web-based service on top of Linux without having to contribute back to the project or release their code under the GPL. This is because creating their web-service didn’t require the company to actually create a “derivative work” of the Linux kernel, only to build an application on top of the operating system. A similar hole was highlighted by the flap sparked by the Trademark blog a few weeks ago when Martin Schwimmer expressed concern that Bloglines was violating his site’s Creative Commons license by aggregating the blog’s RSS feed.

The problem lies in the fact that in a world where the boundaries between applications grows ever more fuzzy, the original intent of Open Source licenses, such as the GPL, is undermined. The original intent of the GPL was to ensure that those who benefitted from an Open Source project where equally obligated to make a contribution back into the community to foster continued innovation and improvement. With that feedback loop broken, companies building web-based businesses will continue to do the only smart thing they can do: exploit the hole, and segment their applications such that they are only obligated to contribute back the minimal amount possible to those Open Source projects to which they make modifications.

On the other hand, I’m not sure we necessarily want to close this hole – doing so may only defeat the rapid adoption of Open Source technology, and prolong the profits that companies can wring out of customers when there is no other viable alternative. In the end, it may be more beneficial for the Open Source community to let these companies subvert this hole in the feedback loop, if only to use it as a clever loss leader to ensure continued rapid adoption, create developer loyalty, and, ultimately, garner protection from those companies not using Open Source who wish to use patent infringement lawsuits or other means to eliminate it as a competitive threat.