Tim O'Reilly

Tim O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media Inc. Considered by many to be the best computer book publisher in the world. O'Reilly Media also hosts conferences on technology topics, including the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, Strata: The Business of Data, the Velocity Conference on Web Performance and Operations, and many others. Tim's blog, the O'Reilly Radar "watches the alpha geeks" to determine emerging technology trends, and serves as a platform for advocacy about issues of importance to the technical community. Tim is also a partner at O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, O'Reilly's early stage venture firm, and is on the board of Safari Books Online, PeerJ, Code for America, and Maker Media, which was recently spun out from O'Reilly Media. Maker Media's Maker Faire has been compared to the West Coast Computer Faire, which launched the personal computer revolution.

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The rise of networked platforms for physical world services

A look at the huge economic shift led by software and connectedness.

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Request an invitation to Next:Economy, our event aiming to shed light on the transformation in the nature of work now being driven by algorithms, big data, robotics, and the on-demand economy.

One of the themes we’re exploring at the Next:Economy summit is the way that networks trump traditional forms of corporate organization, and how they are changing traditional ways of managing that organization. Uber and Airbnb are textbook examples of this trend. Uber has ambitious plans to manage hundreds of thousands — eventually even millions — of independent drivers with a small core of employees building a technology platform that manages those workers. Airbnb is on track to have more rooms on offer than large hotel chains, with under a thousand employees.

Esko Kilpi beautifully described the power of networks in an essay on Medium, The Future of Firms, reflecting on economist  Ronald Coase’s theory of 20th century business organization. He wrote:

The existence of high transaction costs outside firms led to the emergence of the firm as we know it, and management as we know it. … The reverse side of Coase’s argument is as important: if the (transaction) costs of exchanging value in the society at large go down drastically, as is happening today, the form and logic of economic and organizational entities necessarily need to change! The core firm should now be small and agile, with a large network.

The mainstream firm, as we have known it, becomes the more expensive alternative. This is something that Ronald Coase did not see coming. Accordingly, a very different kind of management is needed when coordination can be performed without intermediaries with the help of new technologies. Apps can do now what managers used to do.[Bolding mine.]

Today, we stand on the threshold of an economy where the familiar economic entities are becoming increasingly irrelevant. The Internet and new Internet-based firms, rather than the traditional organizations, are becoming the most efficient means to create and exchange value.

Read more…

Comments: 2

The WTF economy is transforming how we do business

Our Next:Economy event aims to inspire industry leaders to rebuild the economy by solving the hard problems.

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Request an invitation to Next:Economy, our event aiming to shed light on the transformation in the nature of work now being driven by algorithms, big data, robotics, and the on-demand economy.

WTF?! In San Francisco, Uber has 3x the revenue of the entire prior taxi and limousine industry.

WTF?! Without owning a single room, Airbnb has more rooms on offer than some of the largest hotel groups in the world. Airbnb has 800 employees, while Hilton has 152,000.

WTF?! Top Kickstarters raise tens of millions of dollars from tens of thousands of individual backers, amounts of capital that once required top-tier investment firms.

WTF?! What happens to all those Uber drivers when the cars start driving themselves? AIs are flying planes, driving cars, advising doctors on the best treatments, writing sports and financial news, and telling us all, in real time, the fastest way to get to work. They are also telling human workers when to show up and when to go home, based on real-time measurement of demand.The algorithm is the new shift boss.

WTF?! A fabled union organizer gives up on collective bargaining and instead teams up with a successful high tech entrepreneur and investor togo straight to the people with a local $15 minimum wage initiative that is soon copied around the country, outflanking a gridlocked political establishment in Washington.

What do on-demand services, AI, and the $15 minimum wage movement have in common? They are telling us, loud and clear, that we’re in for massive changes in work, business, and the economy.

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Rethinking and redesigning at beta.oreilly.com

O’Reilly’s new beta site puts the focus on learning and ideas.

Screenshot from beta.oreilly.com

Some while back, we realized that O’Reilly is really in the education business — very specifically, the self-education and self-improvement business. People read our books, come to our events, and watch our videos because they need new skills and have the discipline and initiative to seek them out on their own. In a lot of ways, the history of the company has been searching out new ways to achieve the same goal, which 15 years ago I articulated as “changing the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators.”

That goal requires us to notice the ideas and technologies that are new and important; to find the people who have figured out how to make the most of those technologies; and of the people who’ve figured it out, to discover who has the willingness and the ability to invest in helping others to follow in their footsteps. Over time, pursuit of our goal has also required us to learn how to write, edit, publish, and distribute books; to run events that bring people together to learn from each other; and (more recently), to develop video training courses and other online learning products.

We aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed that O’Reilly is a learning company. I was delighted to see oreilly.com chosen as the #1 online course provider, ahead of MOOCs, video training companies, and others who explicitly position themselves as training providers. I like to think that the breadth of ways that we give people to learn — print, video, in-person, and interactive online — is unique because it doesn’t restrict itself to people who have one single learning style.

All of this is by way of explaining the redesign that we’re rolling out at beta.oreilly.com. Over the years, we’d let oreilly.com become mostly a front end for ecommerce, selling access to books and videos and conference seats, with a dose of reporting and advocacy on the side. Read more…

Comments: 5

Open data for open lands

Recreation.gov should be a platform, not a silo.

President Obama’s well-publicized national open data policy (pdf) makes it clear that government data is a valuable public resource for which the government should be making efforts to maximize access and use. This policy was based on lessons from previous government open data success stories, such as weather data and GPS, which form the basis for countless commercial services that we take for granted today and that deliver enormous value to society. (You can see an impressive list of companies reliant on open government data via GovLab’s Open Data 500 project.)

Based on this open data policy, I’ve been encouraging entrepreneurs to invest their time and ingenuity to explore entrepreneurial opportunities based on government data. I’ve even invested (through O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures) in one such start-up, Hipcamp, which provides user-friendly interfaces to making reservations at national and state parks.

A better system is sorely needed. The current reservation system is clunky and difficult to use. Hipcamp changes all that, making it a breeze to reserve camping spots. Read more…

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What Amazon, iTunes, and Uber teach us about Apple Pay

Truly disruptive services don’t just digitize the familiar. They do away with it.

Pay_Steve_Snodgrass_FlickrSomething’s been nagging at me about Apple Pay, and the hype about it.

The Apple-Pay web page gushes: “Gone are the days of searching for your wallet. The wasted moments finding the right card. The swiping and waiting. Now payments happen with a single touch.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

It’s describing the digital facsimile of a process that is already on its way to becoming obsolete. But truly disruptive new services don’t just digitize the familiar. They do away with it.

I never search for my wallet when I take an Uber. I never search for my wallet when I walk out of a restaurant that accepts Cover. I never search for my wallet when I buy something from Amazon. I don’t even search for my wallet when buying a song from iTunes — or, for that matter, an iPhone from an Apple Store.

In each of these cases, my payment information is simply a stored credential that is already associated with my identity. And that identity is increasingly recognized by means other than an explicit payment process. Read more…

Comments: 72

O’Reilly purchases Pearson’s stake in Safari

Safari Books Online is now a wholly owned subsidiary of O’Reilly Media.

I’m pleased to share some exciting news. On Friday, August 1st, O’Reilly purchased Pearson Education’s 50% ownership share of our Safari Books Online joint venture, and Safari is now a wholly owned subsidiary of O’Reilly Media, Inc.

O’Reilly believes strongly in the direction Safari is heading, and we came to believe that there are substantial opportunities for both organizations working much more closely together. O’Reilly is primarily a media company (books, events, online in-person and video training, expert network), and Safari has the technology, sales, and distribution channel for bringing content to the widest audience possible, especially a B2B audience.

Going forward, O’Reilly and Safari will work together to create new features and products, but Safari will continue to operate as an independent entity, as it did when jointly owned by O’Reilly and Pearson. There are no changes in Safari’s products, staffing, offices, or operations. The Safari brand and domains remain the same, and Pearson will remain a key strategic content partner of Safari. All their current materials remain available, and their future books and videos will be added to the service. Read more…

Comments: 6

#IoTH: The Internet of Things and Humans

The IoT requires thinking about how humans and things cooperate differently when things get smarter.

Rod Smith of IBM and I had a call the other day to prepare for our onstage conversation at O’Reilly’s upcoming Solid Conference, and I was surprised to find how much we were in agreement about one idea: so many of the most interesting applications of the Internet of Things involve new ways of thinking about how humans and things cooperate differently when the things get smarter. It really ought to be called the Internet of Things and Humans — #IoTH, not just #IoT!

Let’s start by understanding the Internet of Things as the combination of sensors, a network, and actuators. The “wow” factor — the magic that makes us call it an Internet of Things application — can come from creatively amping up the power of any of the three elements.

For example, a traditional “dumb” thermostat consists of only a sensor and an actuator — when the temperature goes out of the desired range, the heat or air conditioning goes on. The addition of a network, the ability to control your thermostat from your smartphone, say, turns it into a simple #IoT device. But that’s the bare-base case. Consider the Nest thermostat: where it stands out from the crowd of connected thermostats is that it uses a complex of sensors (temperature, moisture, light, and motion) as well as both onboard and cloud software to provide a rich and beautiful UI with a great deal more intelligence. Read more…

Comments: 12

Leading by example: two stories

When health care institutions are charging outrageous prices, we need to stand up and say, "That's insane."

I was struck recently by two stories in the New York Times. The first, “Bishops Follow Pope’s Example: Opulence Is Out,” tells how bishop after bishop, either inspired by the Pope’s example or afraid of being shamed for not doing so, is moving out of his expensive, newly renovated residence and emulating Pope Francis’ emphasis on living simply. “Francis has very definitely sent out a signal, and the signal is that bishops should live like the people they pastor, and they shouldn’t be in palaces.”

I contrast this in my mind with the “do as I say, but not as I do” style of leadership shown by the US Congress on health care, where the message of “bending the cost curve on health care,” and limits on “Cadillac plans” was for everyone else. Congress’ own gold-plated plan remained in place, despite posturing to pretend that members of Congress were in the same boat as everyone else.

But when the leaders themselves don’t lead, sometimes individuals stand up to be counted. Read more…

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Code Red_: “They have no use for someone who looks and dresses like me”

I published a long piece on LinkedIn yesterday, reflecting on Steven Brill’s excellent Time Magazine cover story, “Code Red_“, about the rescue of healthcare.gov by a small team of volunteer techies from Silicon Valley.

http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20140310,00.htmlThe title of my piece took off from a comment by Google Site Reliability Engineer Mikey Dickerson, who is quoted in Brill’s article as saying:

“It was only when they were desperate that they turned to us…. They have no use for someone who looks and dresses like me. Maybe this will be a lesson for them. Maybe that will change.”

I am hoping that it will change, and I’ve spent a lot of my personal efforts over the past half dozen years trying to get more people from the technology community to apply their skills to improving government.  Love it or hate it, it is a huge part of our economy, both in the US and around the world.

It’s interesting to me how many of the early comments on the LinkedIn piece show the libertarian disregard for government.  I find that puzzling.  We celebrate startups all the time that disrupt established industries.  We celebrate innovation in big companies.  Why would we not celebrate people who are working to disrupt government “business as usual” and make things better for all of us? Read more…

Comments: 13