Can open source sustain a talent agency?

Want to start an open source talent agency? Not an employment agency, a talent agency. Seek talent, represent it for projects, and pass the work off for a cut of the money.

Dan Lyons
I hesitated to comment on the Dan Lyons contretemps because it seemed so common and it seemed there was little to add.

It's a story very familiar to me. You have a job as a reporter but you insist on drawing outside the lines. The boss slaps your hand.

It's the old dispute between corporate and personal credibility that open source has found such interesting ways to deal with.

As I have mentioned here before, most of us on ZDNet are not drawing a salary, as Dan Lyons is. We're paid on performance. Our bonds are thus looser than Dan's are as a salaried employee.

But we still follow the golden rule. He who has the gold makes the rules.

The corporate will is fueled by advertising. In exchange for having someone else market me, I accede to that will. If we can't sell ads against it, we can't do it.

Very few writers have found a way to replace that corporate will. If we sell ads against our own stuff, or spend time on SEO, on design, or on other traffic-boosting measures, we're working on our business rather than in it.

We become, in short, businessmen. Like the chef who opens a restaurant, we wanted to cook but find ouselves merely providing employment to other cooks.

Writers, by their nature, are cooks. Not restauranteurs. Our route to freedom is made for us by agents, who market what we most want to do, leaving us free to do it.

Trouble is, open source business models have not yet found a way to fund such people. Especially in journalism. We're all free agents, if freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

So, want to start an open source talent agency? Not an employment agency, a talent agency.  Seek talent, represent it for projects, and pass the work off for a cut of the money.

You probably won't wind up as Michael Eisner. More likely you will be Broadway Danny Rose.

But there is an opportunity here. And when the economy is at its worst isn't that all we're looking for?