welcome to the geek factor(y)

Before I talk about the Cambrian House, there are two elements floating in the online technology world to be aware of.

First, there's something cool afoot. Much of the most innovative online and desktop technology coming out these days is built and updated via opensource projects. Opensource means developers contribute and share code freely in a continuous stream of dynamic correcting, updating, and improving goodies for users, who then receive the collaborative gifts for free (more or less). This has been going on either casually or in organized projects for awhile, but now it is really picking up-- enough so that it's become a stand alone term and non-geeks have come into contact with it.

Second, user generated content (as opposed to professional edited business copy) is coming to dominate the web. The best example of this is MySpace, but there are thousands more--including the sheer proliferation of blogs, as well as community collaboration sites, like Digg.com.

That's opensource + mass content by the masses= ?

A new company is bringing together the disparate elements to smooth the jump between ideas and profits. Cambrian House is self-dubbed "the crowdsourced software." Their simple idea is easily explained through their online demo (still at right). Yes, you got it instantly: a bright idea is submitted, poor ideas are filtered, good ones are introduced to the storm of creative minds in the opensource community, Cambrian House aggregates those codes and packages them into a sellable product, the product is sold and finally the bright idea turns a profit.

Simple as pie. But why? And what for? And so what?

Well, this is an interesting middleman ploy, as inventive as the users it hopes to attract. The sticky part will be finding users who are either a) capable and willing to both submit ideas and work on other people's projects, or b) just selfless programmers willing to sweat for someone else's profit. Despite how it sounds, this might work because as was mentioned a committed minority of such generous geeks already exists---with no profit at all involved. They are feeding more than half the opensource free-ware with which the latest outcrop of indebted college students is sustaining their wired lives.

The significance of all Cambrian House's experiment will depend entirely on their ability to get the 'supply-line' moving. Cambrian adds value not just by aggregating the code but also by ensuring quality, packaging, and marketing this latest gizmo. That's good. But, after all, it will hinge on having an idea first. Once out, anyone can take the idea. So the race will be to reach a tipping-point of loyally-devoted, socially integrated, and technically savvy members--that
magic mojo of the web 2.0 world. Cambrian seems to try to do that by being the cool interface of some very techie users. It's entire face, language and irrational exuberance screams: we are the MTV of geeks, please join us and let's get rich.

On that note: though Cambrian House's business model is predicated on taking advantage of the existing opensource community, as profit is their goal, it seems that the results will not feed back into that ethic or the supply of freeware for users.

One last thing, Cambrian House recently dubbed one day Google Day and brought 1000 pizzas onto the Googleplex campus, without invitation, to feed the Googlers in a serendipity of tomatosauce gorging. (The campus gourmet chef was not pleased.)


Garethf said...

Hey Melanie

Great article. I think you raise some pertinent points about Cambrian getting the supply line running and fostering enough generosity to get projects up and moving. I am hoping there are many people like me who have ideas but few avenues through which to realise them. Judging by the number of ideas currently battling it out, I am guessing so!

JR said...

Hiya Melanie,

Thank you for the thoughtful write up. Stay in touch with us. We love all feedback (positive and especially negative). We really want to change the world and comments, insights, and feedback from people like yourself are crucial.

All the best - JR