This section describes KOSH from an ideological and organisational viewpoint in detail. If you find the prospect of this a little daunting, there's a brief summary available here or a silghtly longer column here from John Chandler
KOSH is a concept that has been kicked around in one form or another for many years. At its roots it has the failure of single companies to address all the needs of all its customers, lack of interactivity, communications, feedback and involvement between producer and consumer, and lack of radical advancement and innovation due to fear of the producer in alienating its biggest customers.
If these issues are to be summed up in a single word, then that word would be "ownership". Consumers of computer products and services can be divided into 2 camps, user markets and communities. User markets include OEMs, corporations, businesses, characterised by a sharp divide between suppliers and users. Communities, such as Amiga, Apple, Be and Linux tend to see a much closer relationship between users, developers, retailers, and journalists. Both of these models though are old, always reinforcing the owner and capital investor at the expense of the user and loyalty investor.
In societies today we recognise the importance of listening to the community's voice. When the directions a society moves in are determined without asking where the individuals want to go, the individuals are disenfranchised. When the individuals all have a say, all have the power to help determine the path of society. They work for their own good and for the good of the community. We are all part of the community; we all make a living in a community, we all use the products of the community, and we all have a voice in that community.
For a virtual community, a core is required to sustain it, to provide empowerment, sustenance and foundation. It is recognised that such a core is so important that it cannot be held by any one party, company, or person. Dictatorship of the very heart of the community or society is considered just plain wrong. We are all part of the community, we all make a living, we all use the product, we all have a say.
KOSH stands for community Operating System and Hardware. It is an attempt to answer many of the problems listed above whilst also allowing the technology to advance along a focused path. I am a big admirer of Linux but it's anarchistic nature, whilst refreshing and fun is also responsible for its lack of direction, difficulty of use and deployment issues.
KOSH aims to become a core product for a community that is owned by that community. If an individual or company works on KOSH, or offers resources, or they purchase a KOSH machine, or they build applications, devices or services on top of KOSH, then they are part of that community, and deserve a say in its direction. All members of the community have the right to participate as little or as much as they desire, from whatever level they chose, whether it be a user oblivious to anything but her applications, a student writing code or a commercial developer wishing to influence the strategic direction. KOSH recognises that its community is its most important resource.
The key here is that, whilst a community must have open communications and respect for all members in the community, technical work must be done in a tightly managed, focused manner, otherwise we end up with drift, arguments, fuzziness, frustration, and ultimately collapse. A platform cannot succeed based upon the popularity contest of elections and neither can it succeed based upon the short term view of people caring only about share price and dividend return. A platform needs a philosophy and a mechanism that drives it forwards with stable medium and long term strategic goals if it is to keep ALL members of the community empowered.
A yearly chance to debate, argue, make course corrections and interact for each of the sections of the community, and then standing back to let a management body do its work hopefully provides the necessary mechanism to honour both the community and the development process.
To this end, the management body must reflect the views of the different sections of the community, respecting their different priorites whilst rewarding each according to the efforts they have put into KOSH. At this level, the ownership and structure level, this breaks down into the creators and maintainers of KOSH (those who build it), the commercial users (those who make money from KOSH in a commercial setting (commercial developers, magazines, retailers, service providers etc), the non commercial users (users, hobby developers etc) and the financiers (those who invest money into it).
KOSH is not freeware. For the community to survive and prosper, it needs to be able to create a sustainable market, otherwise it will become just a hobby. Community members need to be able to purchase the latest KOSH machines and applications. Developers need to be able to invest in creating professional hardware and software, provide the necessary support and documentation, and engage in research. Retailers need to be able to sell and evangelise products into the community. Journalists need to be able to sell advertising and copies. KOSH, the company needs to be able to hire full time people, reward those who have put the effort into creating and maintaining KOSH, fulfill its financial obligations and invest in the future. These points are very important.
The 2 elements of KOSH, the OS and the hardware templates (open designs for KOSH friendly devices) will be sold just as any normal software or hardware product is sold. The money raised will be used to provide support, research, investment, buy licences and pay for third party contract work. In time, a full company will form. Always though, ownership of the company will be in the hands of the community. This will NEVER change.
The KOSH project needs to move ahead, and to this end, the four sections of the community need to come into being. The structure and laws of KOSH are already being drawn up, allowing KOSH, the legal entity to come into being.
The creators and maintainers will proceed from the small group of individuals whose mails and discussions lead to the creation of KOSH in the first place. Their efforts are directed at the actual realisation of KOSH, the Operating System and the Hardware. This group will expand as the need arises for input and work. Anyone can offer their support, time, skills and/or resources and, as work becomes available that can best utilise those talents, then they will be contacted again.
For the creators and maintainers of KOSH proper, all work hours and resources are recorded and virtual credits will be issued to each person's account. IF KOSH becomes a commercial product and starts to make money, then either the virtual credits will be repaid, at a rate to be set by the owners themselves or the virtual credits can be replaced by ownership shares. In other instances, the purchase of a product module for integration perhaps, then a cash amount would be negotiated. Again, it would be as a virtual credit.
For the other 2 sections, the commercial and non commercial user community itself, there will be Working Groups, forums with web pages and mailing lists which will be used to interface with the community, providing a healthy environment for information exchange, idea development and input into the creation of KOSH. These sections however need to slowly become more autonomous and self developing, to the point where they can stand as equals within the KOSH community with the developers and maintainers.
The essence of the resourcing effort at this moment is that all put some effort in in order to get benefit out. If KOSH becomes real, then we all get the benefit of building a core for our community. Users have a product that they want. Developers have a platform to which they can develop. Retailers can sell for the platform. Journalists can write for the platform.
Putting KOSH onto a commercial footing also allows us to look for possible investors, although again, this would have to be done against the virtual credit system. Ownership will NEVER be ceded in return for investment capital.
In short, KOSH is about community and about innovation. It is about providing a platform of choice to the free spirit, the adventurer, the scientist, the artist. It is about embracing the shrinking world, allowing individuals and small companies to make a living doing something they enjoy. It is about the small over the big, the single person over the faceless corporation. It is about being part, a real part of something bigger. It is about doing something more in a world where we are so often told to sit back, do nothing and accept what others tell us. It is about taking responsibility for who we want to be, where we want to go and how we go about gettting there....FINALLY!