Simon Phipps: from “hub and spokes” towards a “mesh” society

I just listened to another fascinating edition of Floss Weekly. They had an interview with Simon Phipps, Sun‘s Chief Open Source and Open Standards Officer.

His outlook on the way that the Internet changes society and how this will affect business is inspiring and thought provoking:

If you look at what is happening in society around the world ever since the Internet became endemic. There has been a topological shift in the structure of society: Society used to be structured on a hub and spoke basis with people controlling rare resources and communications at the hub and citizens, employees and consumers at the spokes. What the pervasive nature of the Internet made happen was that the topology of society gradually changed from hub and spoke to mesh. And as that has happened, the way that business interests have been conducted has gradually been migrating from a world of secrecy giving confidence and security to a world of transparency with privacy giving confidence and security.
We have looked at that trend and are convinced that if we want to be a leading technology company in the 21st century we have to adapt the company to live in that mesh society and to fit in with the emerging norm of transparency with privacy.

What does this have to do with open source? According to Phipps:

Open source is the natural consequence of a society that is heading in this direction. Because, what characterises open source is the synchronisation of the self-interest of many parties. And to create an environment like this […] there has to be transparency.

He also talks about how hard it is for businesses to make this shift, the “succes trap” for businesses: you cannot make a profitable and succesful company do worse on the short term to become a better company in the long term. Companies have to exploit their fallow periods to reinvent themselves: “the blessing of failure” (like IBM in the 90s and Sun early in this century).

This interview is a must-listen for all managers in technology companies. So please don’t hesitate and download the mp3 file or listen online.

Finally let me try out the new poll feature in WordPress:

[polldaddy poll=1013281]

3 thoughts on “Simon Phipps: from “hub and spokes” towards a “mesh” society

  1. HI Hans,

    Very interesting edition of Floss indeed. Interesting argument about companies not being able to go into valeys in order to become a better company at the long term. I believe this would also be called “radical innovation”, but then on the scale of an organization. Interesting to consider how IBM and SUN have done this, because i believe they did went down at the bottom of the valey. Perhaps if the environment forces the organization to change, radical innovation at some instances will occur. Perhaps this also might happen now to the financial system or more importantly to the US capatitalist system. Do you think Barack will work towards a more transparent and networked society?


  2. Hey Joost,

    I sure hope Obama will do exactly that. I find it quite shocking how many measures are taken to keep what the government does a secret and all in the name of fighting terrorism.

    I find how “wired” Obama’s campaign team is very promising.

    See you,


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