I'm about to engage in blatant fanboi marketing, so if you don't want to experience that, stop reading now.
"The Light by MooresCloud" is the name of an amazing product. It's a computer, inside a lamp. The lamp is attractive, and would be worthy of the $100 price even if it just sat there like a rock making your room light up.
But what's truly amazing about it goes far deeper...
Perhaps you have heard about the "Internet of things". This refers to the idea that everyday appliance will be internet connected. We are starting down that path already. Our phones are internet connected, and they became computers almost overnight. Now they are channels and platforms, delivering not just phone calls, but text messages, emails, movies, web pages, notifications, shopping transactions and limitless other information exchanges. Our televisions are going the same way -- they don't just such down sound and images from the sky any more. They give us internet TV, apps and more.
This is only the beginning.
Software freedom true believers, bleeding heart optimists will know that the beating heart of the internet is software built by volunteers, for free, for the love of the game. People who cared sat down, figured out how to make a million computers talk to eachother efficiently and at great distances, and then just gave it all away. They mostly had day jobs, because creating the internet out of nothing didn't earn them a paycheck. It was an essentially creative exercise, a solution to an out-of-context problem which nobody knew existed. They probably didn't even know what they were building.
Nobody really wants their bedside lamp to do all of these things. At least, not exactly. But it could certainly do with some upgrades. Like, maybe it could turn on in the morning automatically when the alarm clock goes off, so you don't have to fumble for the switch... and maybe some more...
This is the internet of things. Not powerful phones, or powerful televisions, delivering the same content. But rather, it is the seamless and intelligent integration of tiny appliances, operating in concert based on our intentions. For example, it's 2am. You bump your lamp on. Its onboard computer notifies the Phillips Hue LED lamp down the corridoor to the bathroom. They both recognise the 2am timestamp, and light dimly rather than blazing 60 watts straight into your sleepy eyes.
The Cathedral and the Bazaar is a seminal work on the economics of open source software. It discusses the traditional, capitalist, business-based model of invention and monetary return. It accepts that by creating intellectual property, protecting it, and extracting a return, one can make invention profitable. But it also outlines another approach. Not all work is profitable. Some work is done simply to address costs. For example, if you are in the business of selling fishing lines, you don't care much about phones. You'll pay to get a better one, but you don't mind if that improvement goes only to you, or to everyone at the same time. Imagine a world if every time you paid for something, *everyone in the world* got the benefit. That's open source. Imagine if every time you paid to get a software bug fixed, it got fixed for everyone. And imagine if, every time, anywhere in the world, someone else paid to fix a software bug, your world got automatically better, for free. That's the key. Imagine if you could concentrate on the business which you were really in, while everything else just got better for free.
Moore's Cloud have done something amazing. They will sell you a light (well, reward you with one at the kickstarter stage). But they will give you everything else for free. Including instructions for building your own light. The software. Oh, and their business model. You can simply download their financial documents and business plan. Just like that. Why? Because they don't care about that. They believe they can do a better job of developing the leading edge than anyone else, and that open developments will drive out closed developments in the short and long run. Nobody can steal their ideas because everybody can have them for free.
So, how does the rubber hit the road? Open source software is still largely a volunteer exercise, although major corporations invest in it for precisely the reasons outlines in the Cathedral and the Bazaar. Google doesn't want to own your web browser and compete against Microsoft. They want to own your search results, and make browser competition irrelevant. Which they pretty much have. Many pieces of software cost money, representing substantial intellectual property and value, and kudos to their inventors. But as many are free, getting quietly and continually better for free, like a rising tide lifting all boats.
Moore's Cloud live at the intersection of the Open Source movement, the modern startup innovation culture, a commercial business and the obvious strategic trend toward an Internet of Things. Like the early internet pioneers, those people participating in this space are solving an out-of-context problem for the 99%. In twenty years, when the world around us is profoundly inter-connected, and this profound interconnection becomes the environment in which we live, this movement will seem every bit as profound as any other major innovation in our built environment.
Building the internet, and building open-source software takes trust, commitment and skill. It takes people to work together at a distance, with little direct obligation. It takes time and it takes money. It takes donations. It requires a business model which will allow the makers and dreamers to try, fail and succeed. It needs your help. For the price of any other piece of quality industrial design, why not also take part in the revolution?
Check out their kickstarter pitch. Let them tell you their story in their own words. Here's the trick. If they fail, backing on kickstarter is free. You can help with as little as a $1.00 contribution. For $100, one of the lights can be yours, and you can own a part of history. And get a bedside lamp to be proud of.
-- This post was made without consultation with the team behind Moore's Cloud
-- I'm definitely not making any money out of this. I've backed them, but I have no vested interest.
-- I've probably made lots of mistakes. This is a blog post on the internet, get over it. I did it in a rush.
-- That said, I'll make any and all corrections required / desired