How to think as an open source tech company

Ross Kenyon
Oct 2, 2018 · 3 min read

Tech feels so proprietary sometimes. Secret algorithms, hidden source code, big companies doing God knows what with your data, startups in stealth mode, and so on. It’s easy to overlook Linux’s open source development community as nerdy; the open collaborative effort for blockchain is overshadowed by the sector’s speculative appeal.

This is one of the reasons why I really enjoy incubators and hubs like Starfish Mission in San Francisco. The focus is on the tech and building it together. Nori recently visited our friends at Starfish Mission to record some Reversing Climate Change podcasts, and had on Jon Connors who does community development there. In our podcast with Jon, we range greatly, but circle the intersection of blockchain and ecology, and come back to why hubs focusing on sharing technology and non-rivalrous development is a great thing for tech.

Jon Connors, Christophe Jospe, and I at Starfish Mission.

In a previous life I was working as a screenwriter and producer in Los Angeles, nothing you’ve likely seen though. Sometimes writers get extremely secretive of their work. The best rejoinder to this that I’ve always heard is that ideas are cheap—execution is what matters. You should write a script such that you’re the only person who could pull it off in precisely the way it deserves to be made. If you don’t have that, perhaps the script itself isn’t worth being that protective of! I think of tech like this too.

Nori’s code is open source. In fact, we just published a Truffle Box of the smart contracts we created for our platform. We want new token economies to learn from what we’re doing and copy our code. If there are ecosystem services markets or commodities trading that uses our model, that’s great! We have more shots on goal and more people to look at the code and make sure it is kept healthy and developing.

In a funny twist, code is often safer out in the open as people can check it before deciding to use it. Open source communities do huge amounts of this to make sure everything works and to debug when problems are found. If code is secret, less eyes are likely on the code and this means it is more likely that someone missed something wrong with it, which can then be exploited by a hacker.

We at Nori try to remember that we’re in the business of reversing climate change. We want it to be solved. If someone were to take our idea and do it better, if that meant that climate change were better or more quickly addressed, I suspect we’d grumble but ultimately be happy this looming threat were averted. After all, ideas are cheap, and we think we can very well compete on execution. This visit to Starfish Mission reminded me of why we do things the way we do, and why we’re thrilled that the blockchain space so dearly prizes the open source ethos.

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Nori

Nori is on mission to reverse climate change. This is our blog.

Ross Kenyon

Written by

Cofounder of Nori; host of the Reversing Climate Change and Carbon Removal Newsroom podcasts.

Nori

Nori

Nori is on mission to reverse climate change. This is our blog.