Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lets hear it for Free!

This article was an interesting read, that I completely agree with. Everything digital is becoming cheaper and cheaper and eventually, or already, free. I was most drawn towards Aderson's categories for this free economy. 5 of the categories offered up something free and eventually some person (or party) is getting paid form this free service. There was one category that no money is exchanged at all, the 'Gift Economy'. I think that this will be the prevailing form that any free economy turns into, because it is the one that makes the most sense.

The best example of this 'Gift Economy' is OSS (Open Source Software). The whole idea behind OSS is that if you find something wrong with the source (code) of a program (software) then you fix it and share that fix with the community. That is the most efficient way of debugging any program, have everyone using it (assuming they can)fix any errors as they see fit and share those fixes with other users.

One major drawback that keeps people from sharing or evern trying to fix an open source program is that they might not get anything in return for their services (i.e. recognition, or payment) but that is not a free economy way of thinking (other than recognition for what you have done, it does make sense to want to have your name on your work) the 'payment' that an editor of any open source program gets is the program itself and many others.

Someone might say, "But a lot of people dont know how to write code to fix or modify programs, are they just freeloaders?" Not at all. These 'freeloaders' act as advertising for this free software; they try out some open source software and then tell their friends about it and how its completely free! Those friends may then try and and spread it even further. Eventually that software is discovered by more and more people some of whom are programmers who can change the program for the better.

OSS is only one example though, Wikipedia is another great Gift Economy way of thinking. Put up information that anyone can change or add onto to make it more accurate or informative. Wikipedia is free to all and open for all to change.

Wikipedia does have its own drawbacks. Some pretty big ones too.
If everyone can get onto Wikipedia then can't anyone go and change information to whatever they like? The answer is yes and no. People can get onto Wikipedia and change the contents of a whole article to whatever they like, however Wikipedia staff is constantly checking the entirety of any changes made to check for errors or just plain wrong content; other users are also doing the same, if they see that something is wrong they can take it into their own hands to change the information to be correct.

A Gift Economy with the other 5 categories present in a Free Economy would a very good thing to look forward to.

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