Zombies are open source, humans are proprietary. Sounds like the latest self-help relationship book for geeks, but it's actually an interesting analogy.
A college student at Champlain University in Burlington, Vt., posted two videos this week of one of his professors explaining open source this way. I found it quite interesting after my post the other day about the problems in teaching the tenets of open source. (Part I, Part II) (Also fun: there actually is at least one open-source zombie video game.)
Basically, his initial concept was this: Zombie population grows exponentially. One infected undead bites someone, creating a new zombie. Much like that old shampoo commercial, they each bite two friends and so on and so on and so on. But humans have to have sex and give birth and grow from infant to adulthood. And they generally can only kill one zombie at a time. It takes time and effort and resources to build up to a plan and an opportunity to get rid of a whole bunch at a time.
Open source software can propogate, update and debug much faster than proprietary software, because there are a whole bunch of coders out there who can dive into the program and fix things. While there may be some overarching structure, such as the Mozilla Foundation, the reaction time is much faster (let's not get into the old, shuffling Romero-era zombies vs the super-fast mutants of 28 Days Later and its ilk) than for proprietary software.
After last month's Pwn2Own Contest, Mozilla once again was the first to issue patches for the bug found in the hacking competition, beating Microsoft and Apple to the punch for the second year in a row.
But the same corporate structure that can make the closed-source companies take longer to react to problems can also help create a more sustainable structure for the long haul. I was reading Matt Asay's CNET column earlier and was struck by a point he made: Mozilla has achieved something amazing by snagging perhaps a third of the worldwide browser market with its open-source Firefox. But without the "corporate greed" structure behind it, can it have a second act? Can it become something more than the sum of its parts and become bigger than - gasp! - Facebook, even?
While the zombies may be able to propogate and multiply faster than humans, the humans probably will win in the end, because they have everything to lose.
After nearly 20 years as a professional journalist for large and small daily newspapers in Florida, Arizona and New York, Amy was part of the Great Newspaper Culling of 2008. That was a good thing. Now, Amy writes for a variety of websites, including NetworkWorld, Discovery's Parentables and Soshable and consults with a variety of sites on their social media strategy.
She also has created the first - and only - bacon news aggregator on the Internet, Bacon Queen and has altogether too many Tumblogs. Amy is the top female user of all time on Digg.com and spends altogether too much time on the computer. You can follow her on Twitter and find more out about her on her website.