Editor's Note: Making a List...
Oct 10, 2003, 23:30 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
How to Help Your Business Become an AI Early Adopter
By Brian Proffitt
I have this thing about lists.
It's not really an obsessive thing, more along the lines of a
"why do I even bother?" thing. Like many of my personality quirks,
it stems from my childhood, where I grew up watching (and
obsessing) about college football.
This is because I lived in a town where the local university had
an almost-mythic football program, and that mythos invariably
rubbed off on the rest of us in that blue-collar town, even though
95 percent of us could never afford to attend said university.
In the US, collegiate (American-style) football has an
interesting ranking system to determine how teams are ranked. When
I say "interesting" I really mean "time-honored, yet slightly
Because of the brevity of the college football season, there is
really no time for teams to face each other in playoffs, as in
other sports. So, teams are ranked by a rather arbitrary system
loosely based on their win-loss record, with other factors such as
who did the team play to get this record, and how hard are the
other teams' rosters of opponents, and (I think) some sort of
Watching my local team fervently, I would be frequently
frustrated by these rankings, because they often did not reflect
what I believed was the Truth. While I have moved on to other
things in my sports-watching, I still carry a strong bias against
I don't screamingly object to all rankings. If they are based on
real stats, I will more readily accept them. And some subjective
lists, like the
top 10 most geekiest hobbies list I recently found in a San
Francisco Web site, are funny enough to appreciate. (Though since I
participate in hobbies 10 and 3, it's a wonder I have children at
But you can tell I was looking at the recent Silicon.com
the top IT agenda setters with more than a little
This list ranked Linus Torvalds at
No. 5 which, I suppose, is pretty good, considering the huge number
IT workers and players out there in the world. A number of jokes
have already been made at Linus' expense about "only" being number
5, but I won't tread down that path.
Such lists are, to me, only marginally interesting, since I
don't think they reflect reality very well. Or, if they do, they
only reflect a snapshot, a brief moment in time.
But putting aside my bias for a moment, what made this list
interesting to me was that in the top five people listed, three of
them are are will be using open-source technologies to further
their plans. Torvalds at number five is obvious.
The number four entry is Hu Jintao, the
Presdient of China. Silicon.com placed him in this slot to reflect
Hu's growing commitment to kick open the IT doors in China and
welcome new, Western technologies. The bio on Hu even mentions his
country's planned move to an open-source alternative to
And then there's number one, Steve Jobs. As the
big driver behind Apple, past and present, Jobs has also turned to
open-source to create OS X and later the Safari browser. You can
agree or disagree with his top status, but there's no denying that
open source is shaping the direction of Job's decisions.
Again, the rankings on this list and lists like it tend to be to
arbitrary to hold up to someone and say "Look! See? It is decidedly
so!" Unless you like doing that sort of thing. But I did think it
was significant that the people to made it to the top are, in some
way, involved with open source.
Something a lot of people have a thing about.