Building boats

Mark has a post up today that has me thinking. In it, he takes issue with a post from ReadWriteWeb on the new Google Maps Flash API. He's frustrated, and I understand why: I share his passion for open source and Mozilla, and know that the things happening here are literally changing the web for the better. However, allow me to channel some of his anger into energy.

It's this sentence that has raised his hackles:

A substantial portion of the web's creativity can be found in the Flash developer community.
They even make it a paragraph unto itself so the effect doesn't evaporate too quickly. I'm going to break ranks for a moment and agree with this statement. I think Flash developers are incredibly creative and do an amazing job managing with less, making do with what they have, and finding ways to solve their problems despite being forced into a box with finite dimension. No matter how good your tool or technology is, if you use it long enough you're going to hit its limits and have to make a choice: either you make do, or you find something else.

Mark and I share a similar background, in that we both spent substantial time in our careers working inside various sorts of boxes. It's nice inside the box. You don't get rained on, there's a little corner for you to put all your things, it's OK for entertaining a few close friends.

But what happens is that after a time you get ideas, and your ideas need to fit into the box. What if you want to build a boat? Will the box fit it? What if you want to invite more than a few close friends over? It's not even what if, it's when, if you're really pushing yourself.

One of the things about new ideas, as David Eaves reminded me at FSOSS last year, is that they usually won't be accepted because they'll seem hostile to the status quo and very much not-how-we-do-things. I think the same is true of technology. New ideas are often going to push at the boundaries of your current skill- and tool-set.

Now what if instead of the box you choose the web? What if you choose "the world's largest open source project"? I won't lie to you, there is a cost to this approach. You trade the clarity of how for the potential of what if.

A large part of what has Mark so upset is that this isn't empty rhetoric. I'm not telling you things that Mark and I haven't witnessed personally; you can see for yourself too. What's got him going is that we need to tell this story to the tens of thousands of people who are letting their ideas stay small so they'll fit in someone else's box.

Don't let anyone tell you that you're crazy for wanting to build a boat; you're crazy for building it in your basement. The open web is where your ideas belong.

Mark, let's do it.

Show Comments