Who Owns What I Think?

A blog article by Richard Skaare got me thinking this week. In his article Beware: What You Create Could Own You

Richard talks about being seduced by the creative process and that you can become incredibly wedded to and precious about the presentation and sharing of your ideas.

It got me thinking about this from web content perspective, as ‘knowledge workers’ we are not just producers – we are also intellectual content consumers. Our raw material is someone else’s fresh idea, we embellish it, with other knowledge and experience and trade it. We are information and knowledge traders – so never mind the content owning me – who owns what I think?

The article makes a number of good points and advises on the techniques for releasing that grip on your creative ideas and the rewards of doing that, but I especially like this quote:

“We view communication as proprietary, not open-source. The open-source concept, long fostered by software developers, is simple and uncomfortably counter-intuitive: give away your work to increase its worth. You come up with an ingenious original, but rather than protecting it as your property, you share it with others so they can add to and benefit from it. Your reward is that you started the value-adding chain.”

Although, do any of us come up with an “ingenious original”? We are all constructing ideas, creating content from a concoction of ideas and experiences not all originally ours.

Richard doesn’t talk about bloggers specifically, but here is a community that are already there or at least if you intend to blog you need to be thinking this way. Here are people freely sharing their intelectual value with an often anonymous community, within some loose open source framework of good blogging etiquette. As I refered to in one of my posts about the community of comments you can also extend this to the comments and contribution of the community around a blog.

The way we mix these ingredients of how we interpret this input is our contribution to this value-adding chain. Whether it’s bloggers or software developers writing code, the search for inspiration often involves Google and yet it’s a difficult balance where I have read blog posts and talked to colleagues incensed that someone has grabbed a bit of their intellectual property and applied it to their own.

So, I’d add to Richard’s advice that we should expect our content to be just one step in the middle of the value chain and to respect those folks that fed our own inspiration – in the same way we would hope that the people in next value chain link respect ours.

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