We recently embarked on a program to create an
"open content" reference design for
of a home-built balloon suitable for first time amateur builders.
(The concept of
is analogous to that of
This work is being supported by a generous grant from the
Wolf Aviation Fund.
Creating and distributing plans for balloons is hardly a new idea.
such plans are available from several vendors.
However, all of these plans are "closed content".
The open content notion of creative development is very
The differences are subtle, tricky, and important.
but complete explanation is impossible.
(Numerous books have been written about this issue.)
So with that caveat ...
Under the traditional "closed content" model,
a creative work is tied to its creator. There is no real opportunity
for a work to evolve and improve over time nor to incorporate
the creative energies of people other than the original creator.
To use a specific example, let's say Bill has created and
sells sets of balloon plans. Potential buyers can decide to buy them or not.
Pretty straightforward, so far.
If, let's say, Fred obtains a copy of the plans, sees a better
way to do something, he can then contact Bill about the idea.
If, and only if, Bill also agrees that Fred's idea is an
improvement, it can be incorporated in future versions of the
plans. If Bill is not inclined to make the change, then the
idea goes nowhere.
Fred is of course free to draw his own set of plans. However,
unless Bill agrees, Fred can not base his modified plans on
Bill's original because that would create a so-called "derivative
So again the potential improvement dies in the vine unless Bill,
and only Bill, thinks it's a good idea.
In an "open content" arrangement, if Fred comes up with an improvement,
he is free to make the change and then publish the improved version.
In this way, a creative work has a life of its own, independent of
its original creator.
Open content creations tend to quickly "mutate"
and then the best designs become popular in a very
Darwinian-like process. The results are often a far better work
than can be created by any single creator (even if that creator
is a large corporation like Microsoft.)
It may sound counter-intuitive, but it works amazingly well.
So the idea isn't so much a matter of creating yet another set of plans.
The idea is to use an "open content" approach to creating and then
evolving plans over time.
For further information, see the article on
Open Content at
Wikipedia. Wikipedia itself is an example of a large and
highly successful open content project.