Why my code and ideas are public

Over dinner my friend Valerie said, “I’m not worried about someone finding out my secrets, because secrets are just facts, right? So if someone is going through my private things, for example, and gets upset about what they find, then that’s their problem, not mine!”

I liked that attitude, and kept thinking about it.

Later as we were leaving, I helped her put on her coat, and picked up her purse. It was so heavy, I had to ask, “What’s in here?”

She said, “Oh probably my two big diaries. I have one diary that’s private, and another that’s like super-super private.”

Because of what she just said about secrets, I had to ask: “Can I read the super-super private one, then?”

She was a little shocked, thought for a few seconds, laughed, and said OK.

We got two ciders and she patiently waited while I spent 20 minutes reading through it. Pages filled with words about processing family drama, formulating goals, plans for life changes, romantic details, lists of regrets, contemplations, etc.

I was surprised it was all meaningless to me. These pages meant the world to her, but to me they meant no more than any non-secret conversation we’d ever had. It was the same stuff that we all think.

Later, I thought about the stuff I keep secret.

Like my programming code, for example. I had it locked in an SSH-only server, on an encrypted partition. My current life’s work. Super-super private. Can’t let anyone get access to this!

But what did I think would really happen if someone read my code? They’d steal it and thrive? Really?

Then I realized it’s like Valerie’s diary. Meaningful to me. Meaningless to others. So why go to the trouble to keep it so secret?

(I realize there’s an argument on the other side. Why go to the trouble to make it public?)

But life is an ongoing experiment, so I decided to make all my programming code and business ideas public and open source, just to see what happens.

I wanted to challenge that fear that someone is going to steal our ideas.

Actually all those business ideas have been posted freely on my site for over two years now, and nobody has “stolen” them, yet. You’re welcome to try. I’ll keep adding more.

Everything is listed at http://sivers.org/projects. Enjoy!

P.S. I never said everything should be public. I only said I’m making my code and ideas public. That’s all. This is not about what you should make public or keep secret. Everyone has different criteria. It’s worth re-evaluating the choices you’ve made, to see if they’re still applicable to you.

This blog is reproduced with kind the permission of Derek Sivers.