“Publish or Perish”

There is an old adage about the Academic life that reads: “Publish or Perish”. Wikipedia reads:

“Publish or perish” is a phrase coined to describe the pressure in academia to rapidly and continuously publish academic work to sustain or further one's career.

Frequent publication is one of few methods at scholars’ disposal to demonstrate academic talent. Successful publications bring attention to scholars and their sponsoring institutions, which can facilitate continued funding and an individual's progress through their field.

Let’s go a little farther from the “frequent publishing” and just into publishing something in time, and it is evident that a man has two choices:

  1. To publish everything he or she knows and thinks, in due time, and be completely honest and sincere (without lying, keeping secrets, or even speaking in riddles, but while still keeping some privacy and using tact and wisdom.). ( = “Publish” ).

  2. To keep things as secrets for himself or herself, lie, or use other forms of deceit or camouflage, thus resulting in him isolating himself from society and becoming paranoid. (= “Perish” ).

If we look at history, we will see that the most enduring and surviving idea systems were the ones that consistently published: the Greek philosophers, the Jewish scholars, the Muslim scholars of medieval times, the post-Renaissance/post-Printing-press Europeans, the American mass-media / mass-publishing revolution of the 20th century, and the user-generated content Internet of today. Yes, there always was a lot of junk (see Sturgeon’s Law that says that “90% of everything is crap”), and that includes the content of the very Tanakh (= Jewish Bible) that many people still consider holy. However, there is always a minority of exceptionally good stuff. For more insights about that, see Paul Graham’s essays “What Business Can Learn from Open Source” and “Web 2.0”.

It is extremely unlikely that a single man called Aesop told all of the fables that have been attributed to him, and even if (King) David existed, he has not taken all of the actions which the Jewish Bible reports he took, because many such tales were common in the ancient Near East. Instead, they were both ancient memes, and people had no qualms to gradually improve upon them and spice them up.

So you should definitely publish, because keeping your “secrets” or “core competency” for yourself is not only dishonest, but a superbly bad strategy, because you will have little motivation to improve what you did, and other people won’t be able to contribute to it, build upon it, or criticise it.

Note: I do not advocate making everything free/open in the Free and open source software (FOSS or FLOSS) sense - just to make sure it is published and documented, and that people can build upon its ideas and improve upon them.