misce stultitiam consiliis brevem

Archive for March, 2009

The Future of Companies

A lot of science fiction deals with how our future economic world will be structured–from libertarian autonomous corporations (Jennifer Government or Snow Crash) to a single global government entity (Star Trek). Given our current economic climate, I thought I’d share a couple of recent thoughts in those directions.

First is an idea that I find quite appealing: the open company. Now, many of you will protest that open source companies are old news; heck, Red Hat has been public for almost ten years now. But this is something new: the idea of running a company not about open source products, but running the company as if it were an open source project. Essentially, this means that anyone can contribute whatever they feel motivated to, and be paid using a peer-rating system. It sounds pretty idealistic: the idea that in the future, we can literally just create whatever value is of interest to us and get paid appropriately. And it may only work when most of the output is intangible. But I think it’s a fascinating notion, and Alexander Stigson, creator of the E Text Editor, says he’s actively moving his company to become an open company. I’m really excited to see how that turns out.

Second, a link to a recent post by Tim O’Reilly, on books that have shaped the way he thinks. I think it’s interesting not just because he cites Dune as one of his influences, but also because he cites Rissa Kerguelen, by F.M. Busby, as

[a] science-fiction book I read at about the time I was starting my company, and that influenced me deeply. One key idea is the role of entrepreneurship as a “subversive force.” In a world dominated by large companies, it is the smaller companies that keep freedom alive, with economics at least one of the battlegrounds. This book gave me the courage to submerge myself in the details of a fundamentally trivial business (technical writing) and to let go of my earlier hopes of writing deep books that would change the world.

I think it’s important to remember that new ideas can be subversive; that both startups and science fiction are often about pursuing new ideas; and that new ideas have the potential to change the world.

Finally, on that note, I thought I’d add a quick link to the NationStates site, a free sort-of-game from the author of Jennifer Government. Enjoy!

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Swing dancing in the Jungle Book

It’s nothing new, but this clip from the Jungle Book might brighten your day a bit:

If you’re interested in film or music history, you’ll also enjoy this brief clip describing the recording of this song.

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Don’t Keep Calm and Carry On

Apparently (so says The Guardian), there’s a popular new poster in the UK, which reads, “Keep Calm and Carry On”. This poster was originally made during World War II, in case of a German invasion. Recently rediscovered, people are supposedly thronging to it (on the order of thousands), in an age where people want some security and comfort.

As you might imagine, I’m not a huge fan of this idea. Instead, what really appeals to me is this response poster from Matt Jones: “Get Excited and Make Things”! I think that we all have some (reasonable) tendency to simply enjoy things in fandom, but I think that we do better when we take it further and expand upon what others have done, when the things we love inspire us to new things. Don’t just be a passive observer and rely on someone else to take care of everything: take an active, positive role in creating something new! Get Excited and Make Things!

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Calvin and Hobbes

I feel like I shouldn’t need to preface this, because everyone should know Calvin and Hobbes already. But for those who don’t, it’s one of the best comic strips of all time, drawn by Bill Watterson from 1985 to 1995 (and rerunning on the web at If you’ve somehow never seen it before, you’re missing out. I don’t really have words for how much I love Calvin and Hobbes.

Anyway, I was recently debating with a friend how Calvin and Hobbes ended, and came across this interesting collection of post-series takes on Calvin and Hobbes. The last one is the fake Calvin and Hobbes ending that broke my friend’s heart (and temporarily mine, before I came home to confirm that it was false). If you need a boost after seeing it, you can find the real final strip here.

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