"Before, only the rich had access to tools and so only the rich were professionals, and the rest were amateurs," says Noah Glass, the co-founder of Odeo, which offers a free service for making, hosting, and distributing podcasts. "But now, as the creation tools have become easier to use and more freely distributed through open source, through the Internet, through awareness, more people have more access to more tools, so the whole amateur-professional dichotomy is dissolving." Citizen engineers are taking this even further, trying their hand not just in the digital world but in the physical world too. Much as eBay transformed distribution, they’re redefining design and manufacture. The infrastructure is there: Yahoo Groups make it easier for people to trade ideas and learn quickly; free or cheap computer-aided-design (CAD) programs allow users to cobble together blueprints; and inexpensive manufacturing in China allows the idea to go from file to factory. There are even websites like Alibaba.com that will help these small-timers find Chinese factories eager for their work.
Ifabricate.com is a platform for do-it-yourselfers where they can trade ideas, contribute to a common encyclopedia, and pool resources. Emachineshop.com brings the community in touch with all those who can turn their designs into a physical model.
Collab.net helps corporations implement open source methodologies, at http://www.collab.net/
Innocentive brings together companies in need of creative scientific and technical problem-solving, and the free cooperation of scientists, engineers and creators generally, at http://www.innocentive.com/ . It had 83,000 cooperating scientists during mid-2005 and amongst its corporate users were Boeing and Procter & Gamble.
Business Week offers a tour of the ‘hotspots of collaboration’ at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_25/b3938901.htm