Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Business of Open Source

I read Cal Evans' blog entitled "Thoughts on Open Source, Running a Company, and OSBC"; in it he chronicles his thoughts from OSBC last week. Since I'm a JBoss guy, what initially caught my eye was the fact that he mentioned JBoss, and ex-JBossians, a couple of times in his rant.

I want to state first that I agree with MANY of the points Cal makes; I'll get to those after I touch on the points I had issues with.

I'll start off with his biggest rant that businesses were bastardizing (my word, not his) the intent of "open source" by trying to monetize the projects. My initial reaction is "what do you expect to hear at the Open Source BUSINESS Conference".

Also, he seemed to imply that ex-JBossians have sold out: "Developers seem to be willing to sell out for bucks these days." To quote Marc Fleury...great code just doesn't fall from the sky. Nobody should have to apologize for paying great developers to do what they love to do full time.

I'm not sure which ex-JBossians Cal was referring to, but I know, for example, that the Ringside Networks guys created and launched a new project and company at OSBC. All of the code is out in the open and that team is actively recruiting folks to participate in their project. I actually think it's healthy for people from JBoss, Red Hat, and other open source companies to branch out and start new projects/companies. It helps ensure that open source continues to expand its reach and useful footprint.

The business of open source can be done the right way...and it can be done the wrong way...which leads to some of Cal's other points:

  • "Free Download!=Open Source": I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree. 'nuf said.
  • "Business people who work with open source consider it a business model": Open source is not a business model...it IMPACTS the business model. With easy and free access to the source code and binary distributions, open source takes an adoption-led approach to the market. It enables users to decide if the technology is worth using and if the project is worth interacting with. This results in a different approach to sales and marketing. Some things need to be done differently...otherwise you risk disaster for the business AND project. Do NOT confuse having a business associated with an open source project as selling out, being less transparent, etc. At JBoss, we worked hard at making sure we kept a balance between JBoss the company and JBoss the projects.
  • "Hire from your community": Relates to the business point above. Business and community CAN coexist. Professional Open Source leverages the $$'s generated by the business to further grow the community of interest, ensure future vibrancy of the projects, add new projects/technologies, etc.
  • "Transparency is the new black": Agree. This is actually what makes open source powerful! You can't afford to be half-pregnant here.
  • "Outsource everything that is not a core competency": Don't get me started on this topic! :-) I agree with your point 1000%; this is the basic core vs. context argument. If you try to outsource what makes you different...then what do you really have.
  • "If you take yourself too seriously, no one else will take you seriously at all": I also have issues with people who take themselves too seriously. Anybody worth their salt wants to be the best at what they do, so drive and passion do not necessarily equal "too serious". I find the most down to earth people are those that love what they do and who they do it with.

Good thoughts Cal...thanks for sharing.

1 comment:

Oxnard said...

Hi Shaun,

Great points. I didn't mean to pick on ex-JBoss, there were just so many of them. :) And while I specifically did not mention the projects I was picking on, I can say that Ringside Networks was NOT one of them. They looked pretty good.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.