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Notes on tech

Notes on technology, business, enterpreneurship, economy, markets along with interesting general tidbits.


Paul graham essays

8/21/2005 12:38:00 PM, posted by anand

I always make it a point to read Paul Graham's essays whenever he publishes them. There is so much insight in them. These paragraphs strike an instant chord with me. Take for example the most recent that he published titled "What can businesses learn from open source". Here are some paragraphs that I picked up verbatim from his essay, which to me are most interesting:

Nor is there anything new, except the names and places, in most "news" about things going wrong. A child is abducted; there's a tornado; a ferry sinks; someone gets bitten by a shark; a small plane crashes. And what do you learn about the world from these stories? Absolutely nothing. They're outlying data points; what makes them gripping also makes them irrelevant.

Another thing blogs and open source software have in common is that they're often made by people working at home. That may not seem surprising. But it should be. It's the architectural equivalent of a home-made aircraft shooting down an F-18. Companies spend millions to build office buildings for a single purpose: to be a place to work. And yet people working in their own homes, which aren't even designed to be workplaces, end up being more productive.

To me the most demoralizing aspect of the traditional office is that you're supposed to be there at certain times. There are usually a few people in a company who really have to, but the reason most employees work fixed hours is that the company can't measure their productivity.

The other problem with pretend work is that it often looks better than real work. When I'm writing or hacking I spend as much time just thinking as I do actually typing. Half the time I'm sitting drinking a cup of tea, or walking around the neighborhood. This is a critical phase-- this is where ideas come from-- and yet I'd feel guilty doing this in most offices, with everyone else looking busy.

Many employees would like to build great things for the companies they work for, but more often than not management won't let them. How many of us have heard stories of employees going to management and saying, please let us build this thing to make money for you-- and the company saying no? The most famous example is probably Steve Wozniak, who originally wanted to build microcomputers for his then-employer, HP. And they turned him down. On the blunderometer, this episode ranks with IBM accepting a non-exclusive license for DOS. But I think this happens all the time.

So these, I think, are the three big lessons open source and blogging have to teach business: (1) that people work harder on stuff they like, (2) that the standard office environment is very unproductive, and (3) that bottom-up often works better than top-down.

I think the big obstacle preventing us from seeing the future of business is the assumption that people working for you have to be employees. But think about what's going on underneath: the company has some money, and they pay it to the employee in the hope that he'll make something worth more than they paid him. Well, there are other ways to arrange that relationship. Instead of paying the guy money as a salary, why not give it to him as investment? Then instead of coming to your office to work on your projects, he can work wherever he wants on projects of his own.
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8/22/2005 8:50 PM, comment by Blogger Manish

I had to say this even if I was short on time - This is one of the most beautiful things I have read in a while. Thanks for pointing the complete essay out. I had gone over the brief on emergic, but missed out on the entire thing.    



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