…Notes from today’s cruise through my newsfeeds:
There’s a big difference between surviving and thriving, as this entry’s title ever-so-simplistically states. Surviving is something families, companies, organizations, governments and small woodland creatures do every day. They’re “doing it”, but in the vast majority of cases they seem not to be doing anything to set themselves apart from the crowd – to thrive. As the open source software movement has proven, this is something that communities of software developers (and users) can do too.
Surviving seems to be something that the community developing OpenOffice.org is doing quite well. They’ve rolled out a formidable competitor to Microsoft’s Office suite. OpenOffice.org gets the job done for most users, and has a pretty-damn-decent feature set. But, I’m sad to say, it just doesn’t stack up against Office.
Meanwhile, the OpenOffice community just finished up OOoCon, a big international get-together held in Lyon, France. Now, they’ve got all sorts of new ideas for what’s coming next. Wait up guys – here’s an idea: How’s about you make what you’ve got work, first? OpenOffice.org is a great suite of software, but there are still nearly 8,000 open issues (a.k.a. bugs) awaiting fixes according to their issue list.
While OpenOffice.org is “doing it”, another group whose name appeared in my feedreader today is “doing it right”. That group is a company called Gumstix Computing, and they’re a 6-employee operation that started in 2004 and hasn’t stopped growing since.
By “growing”, you might think I mean “adding employees”. Not so much.
What I really mean is that they’re thriving in a rare embodiment of the American Dream™ – the six employees of Gumstix are expanding the company, shipping ever-increasing quantities of product, rolling out new designs and reaping the rewards without increasing their headcount. Rather than add employees, the team at Gumstix develops systems to accomplish the things they need done, and they keep them tightly integrated to avoid waste – wasted money, wasted commodities, or wasted time.
Personally, I don’t necessarily agree with this business model 100%, because I’ve always seen (in some twisted altruistic surreality) the creation of jobs by a successful company as a way for that company to “give back” to the community that supports it. But in reality, Gumstix embodies the changing model of business as the world’s transition from an industrial economy to an information economy draws ever closer to completion. If doing more with less spells survival, count me in.
If I get to realize my dream of starting my own business, I hope it’s one like Gumstix – a “brains over brawn” shop where the creativity and ingenuity of people come together to build the systems that make the business run.
If it’s a question of survive versus thrive, I’ll take “Doing it Right” any day.