During the euphoria of the final years of the twentieth century, a revolution was happening among all the other revolutions. Seemingly overnight, the Linux operating system caught the world's attention. It had exploded from the small bedroom of its creator, Linus Torvalds, to attract a cultish following of near-militant geeks. Suddenly it was infiltrating the corporate powerhouses controlling the planet. From a party of one it now counted millions of users on every continent, including Antarctica, and even outer space, if you count NASA outposts.
Not only was it the most common operating system running server computers dishing out all the content on the World Wide Web, but its very development model -- an intricate web of its own, encompassing hundreds of thousands of volunteer computer programmers -- had grown to become the largest collaborative project in the history of the world.
The open source philosophy behind it all was simple: Information, in this case the source code or basic instructions behind the operating system, should be free and freely shared for anyone interested in improving upon it. But those improvements should also be freely shared. The same concept has supported centuries of scientific discovery. Now it was finding a home in the corporate sphere, and it was possible to imagine its potential as a framework for creating the best of anything: a legal strategy, an opera.
Some folks caught a glimpse of the future and didn't like what they saw. Linus's round, bespectacled countenance became a favoured dartboard target within Microsoft Corporation, which was now faced with its first honest-to-goodness competitive threat. But, more often, people wanted to learn more about the kid who -- if he did not start it all -- at least jump started it and was, in effect, its leader. The trouble was, the more successful Linux and open source became, the less he wanted to talk about it.
The accidental revolutionary started Linux because playing on a computer was fun (and also because the alternatives weren't that attractive). So when someone tried to convince him to speak at a major event by telling him that his millions of followers just wanted to at least see him, in the flesh, Linus good-naturedly offered to participate in a dunk-tank instead. That would be more fun, he explained. And a way of raising money. They declined. It wasn't their idea of how to run a revolution.
Revolutionaries aren't born. Revolutions can't be planned. Revolutions can't be managed.
Revolutions happen ......
...And sometimes, revolutionaries just get stuck with it.
-From the book Just for Fun, by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond
you can read the book if you like this.