Network of Tinkerers: A Model of Open-Source Technology Innovation

BLS Working Paper No. 413

34 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2008

See all articles by Peter B. Meyer

Peter B. Meyer

US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Productivity and Technology

Date Written: November 2007

Abstract

Airplanes were invented by hobbyists and experimenters, and some personal computers were as well. Similarly, many open-source software developers are interested in the software they make, and not focused on profit. Based on these cases, this paper has a model of agents called tinkerers who want to improve a technology for their own reasons, by their own criteria, and who see no way to profit from it. Under these conditions, they would rather share their technology than work alone. The members of the agreement form an information network. The network's members optimally specialize based on their opportunities in particular aspects of the technology or in expanding or managing the network. Endogenously there are incentives to standardize on designs and descriptions of the technology. A tinkerer in the network who sees an opportunity to produce a profitable product may exit the network to create a startup firm and conduct focused research and development. Thus a new industry can arise.

Keywords: technological change, network, open source software, uncertainty, innovation, invention, collective invention, hackers, hobbyists, experimenters, tinkerers, airplane

JEL Classification: O3, O31, O34, N10, D83, D85

Suggested Citation

Meyer, Peter Benjamin, Network of Tinkerers: A Model of Open-Source Technology Innovation (November 2007). BLS Working Paper No. 413, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1071991 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1071991

Peter Benjamin Meyer (Contact Author)

US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Productivity and Technology ( email )

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202-691-5678 (Phone)

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