Fractious Friday: The Winding Road to Open

The road to the Internet OS took some interesting twists and turns this week, especially noticeable if you followed the ripples of comment, opinion, and insight that streamed from the internets in response to the stone that Steve Jobs cast at Adobe via his Thoughts on Flash blogpost.

Many, many people stopped what they were doing to read it. The post pulled no punches in denouncing Flash as inadequate for Apple's "most advanced and innovative platform," designed to "create the best apps the world has ever seen." Then the rebroadcasting began.

Over on Techcrunch, MG Siegler riffed on Marshall Kirkpatrick's new genre of twitter->blog journalism -- the act of sifting and curating tweets to build narrative. Read Write Web's Kirkpatrick used a collection of tweets on April as a way to comment and reflect on HP's acquisition of Palm and Palm's WebOS, in an April 28 post titled The Smartest Tweets about HP/Palm. My favorite came from a PR pro, "HP Buys Palm for $1.2 Billion, Spurring Thousands of Blog Posts by People Who Know Nothing About the Deal."

Siegler turns Joe Hewitt's 25 articulate bursts of strong opinion into an interesting reflection that rips apart the state of web development. Five years ago, I can remember how folks were incredulous when Chris Anderson began authoring The Long Tail as a thought-provoking blog saga, annotating and knitting together posts into chapters, chapters into that bound paper slab we still call "book." Now in 2010, with iPads on their ottomans, leading tech bloggers experiment with knitting together tweets to tell a rippin' good yarn.

The scale of the datasphere and the speedy evolution of the cloud (with the accompanying stack of tools, services, and storage, ample and elastic) are phenomena that change assumptions and definitions about platforms, open standards, and open source. Growth, location, lock-in, status, and secrecy -- all these factors shape what what we mean when we talk about open: WebKit vs Flash, the hostility of the browser as a programming environment or a platform for innovation, and, most unexpectedly, the sophisticated ritual of the hiring process itself.

In a series of brief blog posts over the last couple weeks, Union Square Ventures, a prominent NYC-based venture fund focused on early stage and startup investing, has shared numbers and other data about hundreds of candidates for two posted positions; they've encouraged commments from the participants; and describe their highly hands-on review process. They test the idea that sharing trumps stealth as the more powerful tactic.

In a post from back in March, Tim O'Reilly describes the whole Internet as "the operating system of the future," and voices a concern that "the lock-in of the future may well be open source-enabled data." Others, like Microsoft Fellow Gary Flake, sees the epic scale of the data we produce as an opportunity to learn to explore and discover, with projects like Pivot, a new mode of data exploration that's about surfing the data wave: drilling down, zooming out, changing facets, continuously manipulating the data landscape for new context and correlation.

Quick note: Today, 276,570 bloggers created 253,752 new posts on May is Wordcamp month, with local gatherings for WordPress and users. From San Francisco to Chile, Denmark to Malaysia, if you or your company rely on this open source, community-driven publishing platform, you'll be amazed at how much you can learn. And maybe I'll see you tomorrow...

Havi Hoffman
Havi Hoffman, Yahoo! Developer Network
Follow @ydn.