On business/education partnership

It says a lot for Ruby, the dynamic language that's giving Perl and Python a run for their money, as well as for Rails, the application framework that made Ruby famous, that such a savvy software veteran [as Graham Glass] would choose to bet his next business on these open source technologies. It says even more about the nature of the open source process, as well as the future of education, that he would not only propose an improvement to Ruby on Rails but also publish the analysis that led to his proposal.

Open source software development, to a degree unmatched by any other modern profession, offers apprentices the opportunity to watch journeymen and masters at work, to interact with them, and to learn how they think, work, succeed, and fail. Transparency and accountability govern not only the production of source code but also the companion processes of design, specification, testing, maintenance, and evaluation. [Full story at InfoWorld.com]

Yesterday I attended a local forum in which business and education leaders discussed how they can work together more effectively. It wasn't the right venue in which to expand on the theme of this week's column, but here's what I would like to say to that group and to their counterparts everywhere. Open source software development, as a profession, is an early adopter of a work style that can also characterize many other professions. The key aspects of that work style are transparency, accountability, network-mediated collaboration, and narration of work.

I have struggled, so far with little success, to convey what I mean by narration of work, why it should be a routine activity in every professional life, and how it can benefit individuals and society. But yesterday's forum reminds me to keep trying. The room was full of well-intentioned people who clearly understand that the disconnect between work and education is killing us. But they don't see alternatives to the rickety bridges we've tried to build in the past: job fairs, brochures.

I do see an alternative. Thanks to personal online publishing and to an emerging cultural ethos of transparency, there is an exciting new possibility in the world. A young person today who is interested in software can find out what it is like to be a software developer -- by evaluating products, by reading the accounts of people creating them, by making contact with those folks, and by contributing to real projects. I hope it will also become possible for young people to find out what it is like to be a psychologist, homebuilder, forester, teacher, retailer, or city planner. If we want to inspire the next generation we need to open windows onto our worlds, share our knowledge and passion, and invite them in.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/06/07.html#a1464