Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of presenting “Designing Your Product as a Platform” for BayCHI’s monthly program at Xerox PARC alongside Dan Brodnitz (who presented “20 Conversations About Creativity”).
In the talk, I spoke about what it meant to be “Open.” The word “Open” is pretty packed with meaning, and I rarely find two folks who agree on its definition. For instance, a colleague of mine raised hackles when he saw the term “Open” applied to BOSS, Yahoo!’s open search engine service because there was a for-pay tier of service (despite it allowing search functionality inside of other’s products, largely free). In his mind, “open” was associated with “free,” whereas for me, it was associated with flexibility and utility outside of its original location (i.e. inside Yahoo! Search).
Because of this, and many other similar conversations over the past 4 years, I wanted to provide a framework for how one can assess a product or platform’s “open-ness.” Below are the 13 facets of openness that I’ve been cataloging as a means to better describe this term. (They range on a scale starting on the technology side and ending on the side of the user’s experience.)
- Open Source
Free to use, decentralized, and (generally) highly reliable, this software movement seems to drive most folks’ definition of “open.”
Emerging as a new kind of openness, “cloud computing” has opened a pay-as-you-go, only-what-you-need approach to technology.
By defining a spec for how others can plug into your product, anyone can mod and extend your product.
A community-powered, consensus-driven approach drives for a goal of interoperability, whether for software or hardware.
Add meaning to the Web by surrounding your data with semantic meaning (so that software can make meaningful connections).
By providing APIs, 3rd-party developers and partners can take your data/service into their products.
Your product can become a vehicle for 3rd-party content by opening portals into other products (while keeping users on yours).
The user becomes the editor by programming self-relevant content which comes to you when it’s ready.
The product is populated entirely by users, not by you (a.k.a. the product team). Users own their content, and products support the making/discovering of content.
Users form a rich web around content by contributing ancillary data, ratings, reviews, ranking, conversations and link submissions.
The user is welcomed/embraced as a product decision-maker in this corporate bizarro world.
Settings and configurations become portable. Import/export is the requirement, and the user is not locked-in to a single product, instead having the ability to come and go as they please.
The user is the owner of her identity and information, metering out bits as she finds appropriate.
With this list in mind, you can see the presentation in its entirety below:
In many ways, this list (and presentation) is an early draft, and I’d welcome additional thinking on the subject. How are others defining and planning for openness?
Update: YDN posted a recap of my talk alongside examples of each of the 13 facets of openness.