An Open Company

Sometimes the series of connections that is the internet (not the wires but the ideas) is truly amazing. As many readers of this blog know, my editor of choice is [Textmate](http://macromates.com). Textmate made quite a hit when it premiered on the Mac platform, which up until that time really only had BBedit for users in need of a heavy-duty editor. (Was XCode available and useful then?) BBedit had a free version, but if you wanted the full version, it was expensive. Textmate was €39 — which was closer to $39 then than it is now. Textmate also possessed the amazing ability to be extended in utility by its users, who quickly proceeded to share bundles of snippeds, commands, and macros with each other.

Linux and Windows users who saw Textmate, perhaps through David Hansen’s famous Rails screencasts, wanted to know when its developer, Allan Odgaard was going to port his application over their preferred platforms. Allan steadfastly refused, and in a move that surprised everyone, seemed perfectly happy when Alexander Stigsen began to develop an editor not only a lot like Textmate but also one that could use adapted Textmate bundles — the very engine of Textmate’s success. I occasionally checked out the [E Text Editor](http://e-texteditor.com/), but because I don’t work on Linux or Windows, I never paid any serious attention.

All that has changed with Stigsen’s announcement that he is going to turn his stable, profitable, conventional software company into an [open company](http://e-texteditor.com/blog/2009/opencompany).

What does that mean? The first thing he has made the application’s source open — except for a small, central portion that he maintains as proprietary. The next step is to set up a venue in which individuals can participate and begin to feel their way around the project — the code, the tasks at hand, the procedures. What he hopes will happen is that as some individuals become more interested in working, they will find themselves commensurately compensated. (The mechanism he has planned is worth reading on his site.)

Why is this an interesting series of connections? Because these kinds of enterprises are exactly the kind of thing that I think we should not only be studying in the academy but also replicating.