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<title>We Think - Being a Hippie | Divya Manian</title>
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<time datetime="2008-03-28T00:00:00-07:00" pubdate><span class='month'>Mar</span> <span class='day'>28</span> <span class='year'>2008</span></time>
<h1 class="entry-title"><a href="/we-think-being-hippie.html">We Think - Being a Hippie</a></h1>
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<div class="entry-content"><p>I am reading the first three chapters (<a href="http://www.wethinkthebook.net/home.aspx">available online as PDFs</a>) from <a href="http://www.wethinkthebook.net/home.aspx">We Think</a>, a book that &#8220;explores how the web is changing our world, creating a culture in which more people than ever can participate, share and collaborate, ideas and information&#8221;. </p>
<p>The first 2 chapters are very interesting, not the least for the depth of their research, but also for interesting quotes and incidents of &#8220;Open Source&#8221; and &#8220;Community&#8221; culture that was prevalent long before Web 2.0 and social networking became commonplace jargon.</p>
<p>There is a very thought-provoking example of open source design: The Cornish Engine - which proved to be superior to the patented engine developed by James Watt and Mathew Boulton. Here is an excerpt about its development from Chapter Two:</p>
<blockquote><p>In 1769 the inventor James Watt came up with a engine design which incorporated a separate condenser that cut the amount of coal needed by two thirds. This transformed the economics of mining. The Watt engine, marketed with his business partner Mathew Boulton, quickly spread through Cornish mines but [Nuvoulari papers&#8230;] the mine owners became disenchanted. Boulton and Watt charged mine owners a royalty fee equivalent to a third of the amount of money that a mine saved each year after installing their engine, the design of which was protected by a very broad patent enforced ferociously. Mine owners soon started to complain. The patent meant they could not improve on the design through their own efforts. Boulton and Watt had no incentive to make further improvements because they were making so such money. In 1790 Cornish mine owners revolted. Today they would be denounced as software pirates: they started to install unauthorised versions of the engine. Boulton and Watt took them to court and got their patent’s life-span extended to 1800. Innovation ground to a halt. Boulton and Watt never made another sale in Cornwall. </p>
<p>In 1811, a group of mine captains – lead by Joel Lean a respected local engineer – started a journal to share new ideas in the spirit of collaboration and open competition that often marks creative communities. Lean’s Engine Reporter was published each month for almost a century, reporting on all aspects of engine design. A year after the Reporter started, Richard Trevithick and Arthur Woolf introduced a new design that fast became the industry’s standard operating system. Woolf and Trevithick did not patent their design and freely allowed other mines to copy from the original erected at the Wheal Prosper mine. They made their money installing, adapting and improving engines. The tightly knit community of Cornish engineers were soon swapping ideas through the Lean Reporter for how to improve on the basic idea.</p></blockquote>
<p>I am still in the second chapter, but am very excited by the ideas the book is bringing to fore. The author claims &#8220;The social approach to creativity the web is encouraging is reviving one of the oldest forms of creativity – folk – by empowering a mass of amateurs to create and share content&hellip;simply bringing back to life an older, folk culture, which was extinguished by the mass produced, industrial culture of the record and film industry of the 20th century&#8221; I subscribe to that view too. The surging interest in self-sustained living, travel, etc., is only completing the cycle of industrialization.</p>
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<p>I am definitely reading this book when it gets out in Singapore!</p>
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<p><em>Link via Gautam John of <a href="http://silk.arachnis.com/">Silk-list</a></em></p>
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