Thursday, May 10, 2007

Open Source - In TIME Magazine?

I read a interesting magazine article in that discussed the open source movement. This articles was actually in TIME Magazine. It was written by Justin Fox, the “Curious Capitalist”. This article was entitled Getting Rich off Those Who Work for Free. Two of his comments in the article stood out to me.

The first comment that stood out was a quote from Yochai Benkler: “The question for the past decade was, Is this for real? The question for the next half-decade is, how do you make this damned thing work?”


Challenges To Getting Open Source To Work (Well)

It’s good to know that society, and to some degree business, has accepted open source software development as “real”. That is one battle free software advocates may not have to fight as fiercely. The tough challenge is identified in the second part of the quote. Getting open source software development “to work” is a lot harder than it sounds. (At least, getting it to work well is a lot harder than it sounds.) In fact, I know of at least one book that has been written about this.

I find that I’m continually presented with fresh challenges in administering an open source project. Like most managers or administrators I find many of these challenges are a result of my own personality flaws, and I must continually check myself for evidence of these flaws. I can do this in two important ways:

[1] I Think twice before I send a message to the project mailing list.

I try to ask myself these questions: Will anyone be offended by what I am saying? Is it possible that I might be misunderstood? Can I be more specific or provide more details so that this does not happen?

[2] Listen to others complaints and criticisms of my work or activities.

No likes to be criticized or critiqued, myself included. But it is important to listen to other developers and users involved in a project. Many, if not most of them, do not have the benefit of working with you face to face, and their comments give you great insight into there perception of you. You may not be a lazy windbag in real life, but you might sound like one to others. Be especially careful if you here different people making the same basic complaint.

I’d like to talk about some other challenges that are unique to administering an open source project in anther blog post.

Here is the second comment that really stood out to me:

“Clever entrepreneurs and even established companies can profit from this volunteerism – but only if they don’t get too greedy. The key, Benkler says, is managing the marriage of money and nonmoney without making nonmoney feel like a sucker.”

That is an excellent quote.

Those seeking profit from the open source software development model shouldn’t forget that volunteers aren’t stupid and asking to be taken advantage of. If you’re trying to be sneaky or abusive people will catch on. Nothing kills an open source software development project or creates a fork of source code like heavy handed corporate management.

The Sunburned Surveyor
Posted on 4:31 PM | Categories: