a) This strategy (the co-op model) is overwhelmingly likely to fail
b) But every once in a great while, it will succeed
c) And some random fluke for whom it succeeded will think it's a great idea and write a blog post like this one, so
d) The existence of this blog post is not strong evidence against a)
However, given this scenario, we would expect the distribution of S (number of successful projects a given person started under the co-op model) to be heavily peaked at 0, with a few outliers at 1, and falling to ~0 at 2. This author has started three successful projects under the co-op model, suggesting that this is not just survivor bias -- the right sort of person can, at least occasionally, find success under this model.
Anyway it doesn't really matter since this isn't a study or an attempt to prove something, I just think it's funny how well this article fits that definition so I pointed it out.
There are some companies that monetized (more or less successfully) what they shared for free but I don't know enough of them to draw any conclusions.
For example, I sometimes have trouble deciding between writing up an explanation of something as a blog post, versus starting or adding to its Wikipedia article. If I'm being honest, I think the Wikipedia option often provides the most value to the world at large: my contribution will be found/read by more people there, can be improved upon by others to snowball into even more usefulness, etc. But I would probably capture more of the value if I blogged it, because that'd build my personal brand, could generate AdSense/Amazon revenue, etc., while it's harder (though not impossible) to parlay being a respected Wikipedia editor into any sort of benefit.
I share everything I learn - but only on my own website, not posted on some external site. I write book reviews and notes for every one I read, but only shared on my site, not even on Amazon where it would help more people. I guess it is somewhat selfish!
I want the benefit of getting the direct relationship with the reader, with no middleman.
It's not JUST giving, it's giving and wanting to capture the rebound value (as you say). Not as selfless as it seems.
Thanks for bringing this up. (And thanks for doing it on Hacker News, since I wouldn't have seen it on your own site.)
I'd consider selfish to be learning something and keeping it all to oneself.
Otherwise your co-op strategy may get to a stall because not enough people will care enough
His entrepreneur philosophy has beauty to it, but he was totally off track about the whole PHP/Rails thing. Of course it'll take forever to rewrite an entire company (practically) in a different framework. Don't do that. If you want Rails, switch over incrementally to avoid a Big Bang and use it for new projects.