Cathedral & Bazaar on All Time Best Business Book List

I was pleased to see that The Cathedral and the Bazaar was on U.S. News and World Report’s list of the Best Business Books of All Time, courtesy of Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist.

Let’s leave aside the pretentiousness of the article’s title, forget about Ozymandias for the nonce, and accept that this is nothing more than a selection of books that have been important to the CEOs who were queried for the article. It’s still noteworthy, because Craigslist is one of the most disruptive companies on the scene today, as well as an exemplar of how Web 2.0 is reshaping the media business as a whole. So when Jim says:

The notion that large communities of people can address difficult solutions much more effectively than a small number of brilliant people isn’t particularly intuitive but has been shown to be true. The wisdom of the crowds affects every element of our decision making [at craigslist]. Much of the trajectory of the company has involved our staff trying to get out of the way. Users have much better ideas about how everything should evolve than we do.

it’s worth paying attention. People should give more thought to the straight line that connects open source and Web 2.0. (Follow the two links in the previous sentence to see how I connected the dots.) Open source developers were merely the canaries in the coal mine, the alpha geeks who told us something about what happens when a community adapts itself to the principles that drive the internet. Open source wasn’t about licensing or even about software. It was about viral distribution and marketing, network-enabled collaboration, low barriers to cooperation, and the wisdom of crowds. (That is, it wasn’t about licensing except as licensing was a catalyst to turbocharge those other factors.)

It’s a really good reminder that early adopter communities show us the shape of the future, if only we think hard enough about what they are telling us.

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