Open Peer to Peer Design

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= general concept; also, the name of a specific website dedicated to the topic



Linus Torvalds at

“I think the real issue about adoption of open source is that nobody can really ever “design” a complex system. That’s simply not how things work: people aren’t that smart - nobody is. And what open source allows is to not actually “design” things, but let them evolve, through lots of different pressures in the market, and having the end result just continually improve.

And doing so in the open, and allowing all these different entities to cross-pollinate their ideas with each other, and not having arbitrary boundaries with NDA’s and “you cannot look at how we did this”, is just a better way.

I compare it with science and witchcraft (or alchemy). Science may take a few hundred years to figure out how the world works, but it does actually get there, exactly because people can build on each others knowledge, and it evolves over time. In contrast, witchcraft/alchemy may be about smart people, but the knowledge body never “accumulates” anywhere. It might be passed down to an apprentice, but the hiding of information basically means that it can never really become any better than what a single person/company can understand.

And that’s exactly the same issue with open source vs proprietary products. The proprietary people can design something that is smart, but it eventually becomes too complicated for a single entity (even a large company) to really understand and drive, and the company politics and the goals of that company will always limit it.

In contrast, open source works well in a complex environment. Maybe nobody at all understands the big picture, but evolution doesn’t require global understanding, it just requires small local improvements and a open market (”survival of the fittest”).

So I think a lot of companies are slowly starting to adopt more open source, simply because they see these things that work, and they realize that they would have a hard time duplicating it on their own. Do they really buy into my world view? Probably not. But they can see it working for individual projects.”

More Information

From an interview with Linus Torvalds at



Massimo Menichinelli: "This website started at the beginning of 2007 as a personal website as it was intended to serve as a tool to publish and develop further Massimo Menichinelli’s graduation thesis, developed during 2005 and publicly presented on 6th of April 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano, Faculty of Design. It was a theoretical thesis developed studying the possibility of a role for design in giving support to communities, enabling them to act and improve their conditions. The starting point was the success of Open Source and Peer-to-Peer software, and specially the success of theirs community-based organizational forms.

During the following years it has grown both as a website and as a project, with more posts and more guest authors on one side, and more lectures, workshops, publications and other projects on the other side. The goal of this website is to further improve the discussion on using design tools and processes for developing proper and collaborative projects for the communities and territories that will use them. "This website is intended to be a place for meeting, discussion and sharing of knowledge about how design can face succesfully the complexity of society and its problems, especially sustainability.

It is now Massimo Menichinelli’s personal website, with the possibility and hope to grow in the future, becoming a community."

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More Information

Massimo Menichinelli's Italian Master's thesis is translated serially on the Open P2P Design blog.