now and then, someone will ask me where I really think technology is
taking us. Unfortunately, they tend to want a twenty-second answer.
Lately, I tend to focus on the excitement I have about the potential of
RSS feeds and how I fascinated by the potential of web services.
In fact, this afternoon, I was talking with a friend of mine who
suggested that I should focus my law practice more explicitly on some
advanced information technology areas and the legal issues that arise
with them. He probably knew that the first words out of my month would
be “you mean web services?” A while back I worked with a client who
rolled out a web services app that saved them approximately $200,000 a
month. My role was to develop and draft the prototype standard
agreement that could be used as this company rolled out even more of
these apps. For lawyers who practice the type of law that I do, those
are the types of projects that are really fun. They involve creativity,
judgment and ways to manage legal risks in ways that produce business
benefits. I've never understood the approach of the “nay-saying” types
of lawyers who start from the premise that in the absence of court
decisions, you don't want to do anything innovative.
That's an aside.
Later this afternoon, I was a conference call with some of my
favorite people – the other people on the board of the ABA TECHSHOW.
One of Canada's premier legal technologists, Dan Pinnington, is on that board. I received an email from him this evening with a URL for Tim O'Reilly's recent article, “The Open Source Paradigm Shift,” which Dan noted he had read twice in the last day or so. That's plenty enough recommendation for me.
O'Reilly's article is an important one, that I also recommend to
all. He synthesizes a lot of ideas I strongly agree with and makes them
clear. As with all great articles, the artice is really about something
bigger than Open Source and paradigms. My only criticism is that his
conclusion is disappointing because it comes back to the more specific
topics and doesn't push his argument to its logical ends.
Because it is possible that many readers may focus on O'Reilly's
critique of looking solely through “Open Source” or “Free Software”
lenses and the article may become more known for that than his
underlying thesis, I encourage you to read the article carefully and
hold on to your judgments for at least one pass through the article.
It's more important to focus on the core of this article, which is encapsulated in these lines:
“Artificial intelligence pioneer Ray Kurzweil once said, “I'm an
inventor. I became interested in long-term trends because an invention
has to make sense in the world in which it is finished, not the world
in which it is started.”
I find it useful to see open source as an expression of three deep, long-term trends:
* The commoditization of software
* Network-enabled collaboration
* Software customizability (software as a service)”
When I use the term “web services,” I use it in the sense of the
apps and tools that bring together these three trends. There's a lot of
very important thinking in this article. It's fashionable these days to
dismiss Kuhn's notion of “paradigm shifts,” but get past that as well.
This article is as important as anything else you may read this summer
and it will reward repeated study.