The idea of "open sourcing" a company's intellectual property has traditionally been applied to the source code that makes up a particular application. Yet in a surprising move, Knowledge Tree - which already offers its document management system under an open source license - is releasing all of its documentation, developer guides, and marketing materials under a Creative Commons contribution license.Knowledge Tree COO Daniel Chalef had this to say about the decision:
"KnowledgeTree is all about simplicity and open source. In fact, we feel so strongly about promoting simplicity and freedom that we have open sourced our entire web presence and all of our marketing material and documentation. We want our community to use our intellectual property in any way they desire: from adapting our documentation for use within their organizations to utilizing our developer documentation as the basis for documentation for their own KnowledgeTree-related products,"
In an age where cease and desist notifications are sent out like credit card applications, it is truly refreshing to see an organization embrace the open source mentality throughout their operation.
Are they giving up somewhat of a competitive advantage? Most likely. Though the source code to the Knowledge Tree document management system is freely available, few organizations have the time and resources to understand it and document it the way that Knowledge Tree has.
However, in an excellent display of Google's oft-quoted mantra "Don't Be Evil," Knowledge Tree is betting that the good karma generated by sharing its intellectual property will pay dividends in the not-too-distant future. Furthermore, this move could prove to become a new kind of competitive advantage.
Imagine this scenario: A company is looking to stand up a document management system and, as usual, the system needs to be available yesterday. Naturally, the IT manager begins with an evaluation of the leading document management systems on the market.
Since open source applications can no longer be ignored, and Knowledge Tree is the self-proclamed "world's leading Open Source document management system for small to medium-sized organizations," they are near the top of the list.
While the IT manager is working through parallel sales cycles with multiple vendors trying to get demo versions of software and the accompanying documentation, her IT staff has gotten Knowledge Tree up and running. Why? Because they had everything they needed from the start.
Later on, when the timeline gets even more compressed, who do you think this organization will turn to for professional services?
That's right: Knowledge Tree.
Regardless of whether or not this is a realistic scenario, the decision by Knowledge Tree to avail its ripe mind for the picking, so to speak, will cause competitors - both open and closed source - to take notice and perhaps re-evaluate their own intellectual property policies.
If you believe that knowledge should be free, then head over Knowledge Tree's site and share your support.
What do you think of this decision? Is it crazy -- or crazy-obvious? Should the likes of Adobe or Microsoft adopt a similar strategy? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.