Perhaps a change of underwear is in order?

During a recent trip to see
my doctor, I decided to forgo the typical waiting room
Hollywood trash fodder and picked up copy of Diabetes
Health.
This particular issue had an
article in it about the Chicago Diabetes Project
.  This is an effort that is using open source
concepts to help find a cure for Diabetes. 
The article is mainly an interview with Dr. José Oberholzer, the leader
of the CDP, in which he extols the virtues of a collaborative approach that are
already known to many in the software development arena.  As someone interested in collaborative
approaches to solving problems both in and out of the software development
space, there are so many angles I could take for commentary on this article,
but for some reason the thing that popped out at me the most was when
discussing the challenges of this approach, Dr. Oberholzer mentions how the
process of funding such research through grants isn’t really conducive to a
collaborative approach and that not collaborating is a matter of academic
survival. 

For me, that’s the rub that
so often inhibits true reuse and collaboration in enterprise software
development shops.  While I can certainly
understand the need for medical researchers to be protective of their work to
keep their funding going, I think we’d all agree that complete transparency
into that work is something that would benefit the race to cure many diseases.  Unfortunately this same attitude seems to be
all too prevalent in today’s software development shops, where funding is
ultimately all coming from the same place and everyone’s main end goal is
presumably the overall health of the company. 
Being closed as opposed to open seems to be a more comfortable way of
operating for all too many people.  It
all reminds me of the line from the American sitcom Cheers where the Norm character, in response to a typical throw
away greeting of something like “What’s happening”, says "It's
a dog eat dog world, and I'm wearing Milkbone underwear."

So while tools and
environments are key to helping organizations realize the benefits of open
source approaches internally, may I suggest as step 1 just a simple change of
underwear into something a little less
comfortable?  Leaving the details of this analogy to each individual reader, quite often the change takes some getting
used to before it becomes so comfortable that you start wondering what took you so
long.

Posted in News
One comment on “Perhaps a change of underwear is in order?
  1. Jeff,
    I’ve actually been wrestling with the same question for a few years now. My approach was to develop a platform where researchers could publicly propose research projects, have these evaluated by their peers, and to seek funding (via microinvestments) from the broader internet community. The idea being that instead of researchers being funded by individual organizations, they could now be funded (in small amounts) from a much larger segment of society.
    We’re working toward launching this platform in the coming weeks for its pilot run. In the meantime, however, I’d welcome any and all feedback you might be able to offer me regarding the overall project itself.
    Regards,
    Priyan

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