Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What We've Learned From Linus Trovalds

A very fantastic talk on TEDx, delivered by Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin, was shown in youtube. He attributes the success of Linux during his talk to four primary principles:

1. Don't Dream Big

Zemlin quotes poet David Frost in his first point about not dreaming big: "Don't aim for success if that's what you want. Do what you love and believe in and it will follow." This is exactly what Linus Torvalds did when he put his Linux operating system on the Internet in 1991 and said he didn't think it would be much, just something he was doing for fun. 

Lesson 1: Don't dream big

2. Give It All Away

Zemlin also makes an important point about how companies make money from software that is given away. By giving Linux away, Linus Torvalds and the entire Linux community have created more value than anyone could have imagined. Linux today is estimated to be worth more than $10B. IBM and Red Hat continue to see increasing shareholder value, while companies using largely closed development models have seen little return to their shareholders.

Lesson 2: Give it away

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Zemlin says that even Apple gets the value of Linux and open source software. Inside every iPhone and iPad, there is free software. He says," Apple knows something that many people don't. When you stand on the shoulders of giants you can innovate at higher levels."


Don't Have a Plan

He goes on to explain that the plan for Linux is there is no plan and shares with the TEDx audience how self-forming communities result in faster, better collaboration. Seven changes are made to Linux every hour, 24 hours a day, because people are self-motivated and care about what they're working on. 

Lesson 3: Don't have a plan

4. Don't Be Nice

His last point is perhaps the most entertaining and provocative. Zemlin talks here about the value of flame wars, defending ideas and ridiculing code. The result? Better software. He cites a UC Berkeley study that found groups that are encouraged to debate rigorously and defend their ideas, opposed to traditional brainstorming where every idea is a good idea, come up with better ideas. Just be yourself.
Lesson 4: Don't always have to be nice

In LinuxCon 2013 Japan, Zemlin also added the lesson number five from Linux Foundation: The best firms invest in external research and development.

Lesson 5 Added in LinuxCon2013 Japan
I don't want to spoil the ending so I'll just say that he makes the argument that the future is one where you can enrich yourself while at the same time enriching others. Check out the 18-minute talk here and share. If this TEDx Talk inspires you, let the TED team know and help us spread the word about Linux.

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