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

  • Meyer, Peter B.

    ()

    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

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.

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Paper provided by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its series Working Papers with number 413.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec070120
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  1. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
  2. Nathan Rosenberg, 1996. "Uncertainty and technological change," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 40(Jun), pages 91-125.
  3. Peter B. Meyer, 2003. "Episodes of Collective Invention," Working Papers 368, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  4. James Bessen & Eric Maskin, 2009. "Sequential innovation, patents, and imitation," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 40(4), pages 611-635.
  5. Harhoff, Dietmar & Henkel, Joachim & von Hippel, Eric, 2003. "Profiting from voluntary information spillovers: how users benefit by freely revealing their innovations," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(10), pages 1753-1769, December.
  6. Schrader, Stephan, 1991. "Informal technology transfer between firms: Cooperation through information trading," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 153-170, April.
  7. David, Paul A, 1998. "Common Agency Contracting and the Emergence of "Open Science" Institutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 15-21, May.
  8. E. Roy Weintraub, 1993. "Editor's Introduction," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 117-119, Spring.
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