Will the real Open Source please stand up?

7 03 2006

An interesting debate is going on among a few prominent bloggers, most of whom I know personally, around the concept of Open Source and the risk it runs of being watered down by clueless companies trying to bend and exploit it for their own ends.

It all started with feather (the ASF marketing blog) quoting my friend and colleague Gianugo:

I think I’ve been through enough winters to understand that the world is a competitive pool full of sharks and deal with it, but still I’m disturbed by the number of people trying to exploit the Open Source wave with little to no clue.

Then Sylvain chimed in with:

There’s been a number of companies jumping in the Open Source bandwagon lately, using it merely as a marketing tool to find new creative ways of locking in customers.

Later Matt puts forward his disagreement:

I do think that the “real” open source community tends to view itself through an elitist frame sometimes, and fetishes over what’s being kept back rather than what is being given away. The upshot of even the lamest of open source companies is that a huge amount of code (much more than if the “real” community were left to its own devices – just take a look at the growth in Sourceforge since the mudbloods invaded) is now free. This is a positive thing, whatever the negatives (and I’ve written similarly to Gianugo’s comments before.

Finally, we have Matthew who does not want to take sides:

A bit like quantum physics (if you’ll pardon the glossing over) – the more people look at Open Source (with their varied backgrounds and goals), the more Open Source itself will change to become – well, who knows. Being successful in this marketplace will also mean being able to adapt quickly to the changes within Open Source and within the software business as a whole.

Personally, I too think that community is more important than code and that Darwinian selection will weed out certain companies, or at least their Open Source strategies, in the end. However, I’m not so sure we need to clarify what Open Source really stands for and that we risk being confused with “the suckers out there”. Regardless of the field we’re playing in, we’re bound to find opportunistic players, but we shouldn’t be afraid of being perceived to be one and the same with them, just as Rijkaard shouldn’t be afraid of being lumped together with Mourinho (I guess Matt will agree with me here. By the way, as I’m writing this the match is still 0-0 but Barcelona seems to be able to score sooner or later).

Most of all, I agree with Matthew: “it’s the customer who will, in the end, define what commercial Open Source turns out to be.”

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2 responses

8 03 2006
Elzeviro » The “real Open Source” blogfest

[…] Also, I’m not buying what Matt, Matthew and Ugo are saying about some sort of Darwinian selection being able to discriminate the good from the bad (assuming there is actually “good” and “bad” – I just tend to think we have different objectives): it’s hard enough to move the CIO masses beyond the “Open Source means Linux” meme, go figure explaining why they should care to consider the difference between Open Source built within the virtuous cycle of community based development and Open Source as a pure distribution model of conceptually proprietary and closed to participation code. This is why I really think we need to be more vocal about it, possibly with a new term or brand that clearly specs out what we really perceive as the real value around open development. […]

8 03 2006
Numerabile - L’Open Source? Una variabile quantistica in un mondo di squali

[…] L’atto dell’osservazione muta lo stato di una variabile quantistica. E con l’Open Source avviene la stessa cosa. L’attenzione del mondo all’Open Source ne cambia l’evoluzione, gli impieghi e gli impatti economici. E’ questa una delle idee che girano nell’aria in questi giorni nelle fervide menti di questi open sourcer. A me piace pensare all’Open Source come ad uno strumento libero, non totalmente business-driven utile al fine di ricercare, sviluppare e condividere cose migliori, belle, valide. Utili? Che generano utile? Anche, ma non solo. La comunità OpenSource la vedo come una comunità scientifica con il gusto di fare ricerca e di condividerla. Il problemuccio è che le sovvenzioni alle community di ricerca (anche quelle più illustri ed antiche) arrivano solo quando queste generano utile…ma questo è un altro discorso. –> […]

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