Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ten ideas about ideas

Ideas aren't physical. Regardless of the legalities, treating ideas as possessions insults their vast combustive power.

Ideas aren't worth jack unless other people can put them to use.

Ideas won't change the world unless others can improve on them.

Ideas grow by participation, not isolation.

Ideas change as they grow. Their core remains the same, but their scope enlarges with successful use.

Ideas have unexpected results. No one person can begin to imagine all the results of a good idea. That's another reason to welcome participation.

Nobody's going to "steal" your ideas, any more than they can steal your cerebrum. You're the source. Authority over the idea begins with you.

Authority derives from originality and respect. You can't get respect for your original ideas unless those ideas prove useful to others.

There are two reasons other people are going to "steal" your ideas. First, the only people qualified to steal your ideas are too busy trying to get their own ideas to work. Second, they already don't like your idea because it's not their idea. (But if your idea gets traction, maybe then they'll start to respect it.)

In the software world, patents are hand-held nuclear weapons. They may have some deterrent or "defensive" purposes, but they tend to hurt those who use them at least as much as they hurt others. Where would Linux be if Linus Tovalds decided to make it a proprietary OS? Where would RSS, blogging, podcasting or outlining be today if Dave Winer had locked his ideas behind patents?

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