Chapter 10 Clay Shirkey Reflection

Shirkey explains the idea of “lowering the cost of failure” with open source software projects being hosted for free on He goes on to point out that three quarters of the hosted projects haven’t even gotten a single download, the majority of open source projects fail. The ones with millions of users are extremely rare. However, Shirkey goes on to state that open source projects lower the cost of failure because they “rely on peer production, the work on [these] systems can be considerably more experimental, at considerably less cost, than any firm can afford” (245). The fact that they are almost destined to commercially fail ultimately lowers the cost of failure, because it happens so often with free software.

This concept can relate to the Communications project we are working on because of the mass amateurization of media. Since practically anyone can write an article and publish it online for free, projects can be conducted at virtually zero cost. Without the hindrance of budgets, we are able to experiment and make bigger leaps with online projects. We do not have to consider whether it will gain a wide enough following and revenue to make the project financially worthwhile.

The more we lower the cost of failure, the more we can explore different possibilities with our projects. Companies that fund their projects tend to stick to whatever strategy works for them without exploring other alternatives due to financial restrictions. However, open source projects can explore endlessly due to a low cost of failure. Formal institutions cannot undertake projects who’s resources will not offset the outcome, yet with open source, “even the risky stuff can be tried eventually” (Shirkey 249). A specific example of how we can take advantage of this aspect is experimenting with the different layouts of different blogging platforms. Since the majority of them are free, we can see how our project looks on Tumblr, WordPress,, Blogger, Weebly, ect.

Our group can give our full attention to the project we are trying to put together due to a very low cost of failure. Even if our tumblr does not get traffic, we would not have wasted resources on its’ development (aside from our time). This is the main reason we chose to visually present our articles on a free blogging platform,Tumblr. It is accessible to anyone and does not have a sign-up cost.

We also do not have to worry about paying anyone to write articles because we are contributors, not employees. We can collaborate, try out new alternatives, and post our material for free all while having a low cost of failure. Due to this, we could write about or discover new things that companies relying on employees and a budget would not have been able to. This will give us a leg up against commercial companies than have unavoidable overhead charges. Since none of us are getting paid to put together this project (unfortunately), the amount of work and editing we could put into our project could technically be infinite. On the other hand, the amount effort and time put into a commercial project directly relates to its’ budget.

Due to all of the aforementioned reasons, our projects’ cost of failure is reduced, opening it up to limitless opportunities.


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