Like most human endeavors, engineering combines art and discipline for an objective result. The objectives for engineering effort are predominantly economic, and our methods and practices reflect this history.
In the internet, conventional economics have changed. Fundamentally, the marginal cost of information replication is zero. As a result, a particle physics of information economics is continuously emerging.
For example, the Google Page Rank Algorithm recognized the economic value of a hyperlink in a hypertext web page -- and succeeded in converting these economic quanta into a very large cash flow like a great sail in the wind of internet information.
The story of the past, present and future of the internet is the story of these quanta of effort and utility.
The internet opportunity for engineering is being explored daily, perhaps most expressively in open source engineering. In this case, free and open opportunity combines education with ambition on the internet scale. Collegial communities of effort develop around opportunity and excellence to develop kernels of work into accomplishment.
In one perspective, internet scale engineering could be described as collecting and organizing interested participants. However the essential elements of the open source engineering proposition are an open (reproducible) result produced in a generous team. In a good experience one learns and grows. These are basic. A particularly interesting or exciting project as in space flight for example is only all the more worthwhile.
Moving up the economic ladder of internet opportunity for performing work is a function of minimizing the fixed and variable costs of project contribution. Increasingly smaller quanta of effort express convenience and productivity.
So there are a couple things to learn to do in order to launch projects into this future.
One is the definition of the initial work kernel as motivating and sufficient to progress. Another is realizing methods of contributing work that are a good fit for the folks needed by the project. And another is some approaches to team communication that are a good fit to all of the above.
Kernel, Tools, Community.
With these things in place and well fit, it shouldn't take a year to bring even the most substantial project up to strength through social media -- friends and friends of friends -- and perhaps a few well chosen ad words.
Internet scale engineering reaches deep into methods and practices. It demands open generosity, or collaborate first and cynicate later. Relationships will flux as characters emerge; while the life of the project will depend on maintaining the open source engineering proposition: open results in a generous team. And it requires effective and convenient tools that maximize convenience.
The internet frontier lies in extraordinary new heights in productivity for open, reproducible results -- and thereby in new degrees of freedom for innovation.