The Power of Complements: Open Source Software and Learning Logs


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 13, 2023

4 min read


The Power of Complements: Open Source Software and Learning Logs


In the world of business and education, the concept of complements plays a crucial role in shaping strategies and outcomes. This article explores the fascinating connection between open source software and the use of learning logs, highlighting how these seemingly unrelated topics are driven by the same principle of complements. By understanding the dynamics of complements, companies and educators can make informed decisions to maximize their impact and achieve their goals.

Open Source Software as a Business Strategy:

Contrary to popular belief, companies investing in open source software do so not out of a sudden change in ideology but as a smart business strategy. They recognize that open source software can be a complement to their existing products or services, driving demand and increasing profitability. For example, when the prices of computers decrease, more people buy them, leading to an increased demand for operating systems. Companies can capitalize on this by developing open source operating systems that complement their hardware, allowing them to charge higher prices and generate more revenue.

The Economics of Open Source:

While open source software may appear to be a "zero cost" effort, the reality is that it comes with its own set of challenges. The time and resources required to revise existing device drivers and support new hardware can be significant. Additionally, there is a finite pool of volunteer programming talent available for open source projects, creating competition among projects for these limited resources. As a result, many large companies are investing in supporting open source software by allocating budgets and hiring teams of programmers. They do so to gain a competitive advantage, lower the price of their complements, and ultimately increase their market share.

Commoditization and Strategy:

The principle of complements further explains why companies strive to commoditize their complements. By reducing the price of complements to a "commodity price," companies can stimulate demand for their primary products or services. IBM's decision to use off-the-shelf parts and document the interfaces in the PC architecture enabled other manufacturers to join the market. This move successfully commoditized the add-in market, leading to lower PC prices, increased power, and fierce competition. However, it's important to note that commoditization can sometimes backfire if companies fail to adapt or find new ways to differentiate themselves.

Learning Logs: Enhancing Metacognition:

Shifting gears to education, learning logs are a personalized learning resource that promotes metacognition and problem-solving skills in children. By recording their responses to learning challenges, children gain insights into their own thought processes and strategies for problem-solving. Research has shown that learning logs increase metacognition by making students more aware of their thinking processes. Unlike traditional journals, learning logs encourage students to use colorful graphics and physical representations to illustrate their learning, making it accessible to those who struggle with written forms of expression.

The Connection:

While open source software and learning logs may appear unrelated, they both leverage the power of complements to achieve their objectives. Just as companies commoditize their complements to drive demand and increase profitability, learning logs empower students to understand and improve their problem-solving abilities. Both strategies recognize the importance of self-awareness and the impact it has on performance.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace complements: Whether in business or education, understanding the role of complements is crucial. Identify the complements to your products or services and find ways to make them more accessible or affordable.
  • 2. Invest in metacognition: Encourage metacognition in students by incorporating reflective practices like learning logs. Give them the tools and freedom to express their thinking processes through visual representations, enhancing their problem-solving skills.
  • 3. Adapt and innovate: Commoditization can be a powerful strategy, but it requires constant adaptation and innovation. Keep an eye on market trends and be prepared to differentiate yourself when commoditization reaches its limits.


The concept of complements unites the worlds of open source software and learning logs, showcasing how strategic decisions can be influenced by this principle. By recognizing the power of complements, companies and educators can leverage it to their advantage, driving demand, increasing profitability, and enhancing learning outcomes. Embracing complements and promoting metacognition are actionable steps to unlock the full potential of these strategies in both business and education.

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