Open Source, friend or foe

The Register today, has an article, headlined “US in open source backlash” arguing that the US is a late, slow and distressed adopter of open source compared with Europe and Latin America. This prompted me to write up notes from a BT conference to which we had been invited. The notes were originally published on my sun/oracle blog, and I created this article on the blog as part of the exercise in unifying the blogs in March 2016. The original article looks at comments from MySQL & Google staff, and finishes with a review of Simon Phipps presentation to the meeting which I repeat here.

I’d not heard Simon Phipps speak before and he used some of the slides he’s posted on the web. He showed how open source creates value summarised by the pithy quote

“it’s not about altruism”.

Both publication and contribution is in the coder’s best interests. (I’ll return to this another day as it impacts on some thinking I’ve been doing for the last couple of years about the source of wealth and the nature of software & information, which I contibued to do for the next 10 years and counting). He also offers a definition of open based on readability, however, most opensource is licensed and therefore the “right to use” is constrained. Simon has written a White Paper offering a simple classification based on how the licence constrains copyright if users change the code.

The third leg of his definition of open relates to how easy it is to become a committer and/or how the original authors control or share the code’s development and future.

However possibly the most interesting comment is that we’re now in “Software Market 3.0” and both expect to pay for software at the point of value and expect to make transparent payments for services related to software. Critically access to the “committers” so that errors can be fixed but a whole bunch of things come with software such as updates, fixes, documentation (including the known errors list), RFC process, consultancy, education etc. Open source allows consumers to negotiate these services and pay a fair price for what they require. Simon referred to it as “unbundling the software value proposition”. Clever stuff.

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