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Engaging with the OSS Community 83

Posted by michael
from the diamond-ring-not-required dept.
s390 writes "Olliance has the second of its Open Source articles up at the Inquirer. It's called "Engaging with the Open Source Community (Part Two)", and it explains the different levels of involvement that companies can have with Open Source. More education for managers, and an outline of a corporate process for approaching adoption and deployment of Linux and other Open Source software."
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Engaging with the OSS Community

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  • by pytheron (443963) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @03:51PM (#6326237) Homepage
    Most of us would love to see Open Source widely adopted as a business strategy. The major barrier to this is that business adopts the path-of-least-resistance to profitability, and changing your current strategy for a largely untested and hence managerially mistrusted one is a brave move indeed. No amount of educating managers is going to change the fact that its better to wait and see others succeed (or fail) before you try yourself.
    • Most of us would love to see Open Source widely adopted as a business strategy. The major barrier to this is that business adopts the path-of-least-resistance to profitability, and changing your current strategy for a largely untested and hence managerially mistrusted one is a brave move indeed. No amount of educating managers is going to change the fact that its better to wait and see others succeed (or fail) before you try yourself.

      It doesn't help that OSS gained critical mass at the same time the tech
      • by s390 (33540) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @05:34PM (#6326705) Homepage
        It doesn't help that OSS gained critical mass at the same time the tech economy collapsed...

        I disagree. I believe IT budget pressures in this economic retrenchment are of great help in motivating IT managers to look into OSS for cost savings, even if they don't 'get' the larger benefits of escaping vendor lock-in initially.

        • by God! Awful 2 (631283) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @05:52PM (#6326783) Journal
          I disagree. I believe IT budget pressures in this economic retrenchment are of great help in motivating IT managers to look into OSS for cost savings, even if they don't 'get' the larger benefits of escaping vendor lock-in initially.

          If it's just a matter of using Apache instead of MS for their web server, I think a lot of companies are already doing that. But the article also talks about funding OSS development or forming a vendor consortium to develop a common tool. This isn't likely to happen because the companies that pay for the cost of research have a vested interest in maintaining a high cost of entry into the market.

          -a
          • by s390 (33540) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:37PM (#6327030) Homepage
            But the article also talks about funding OSS development or forming a vendor consortium to develop a common tool. This isn't likely to happen....

            Of course, different companies will choose to be involved to lesser or greater degrees. Most (more than 90%) will be users primarily, rather than getting involved. Of the relative few that do contribute, most of those will just submit bug reports and apply patches. The few that do get more involved will likely be in niche businesses where their cost savings from using open platforms are greater than added customization costs: a few percent at most.

            But that doesn't mean that a few won't actively contribute, where their costs of doing so will be less than continuing to pay high annual license fees for commercial software.

            Collaborative competition won't be adopted in large companies with major R&D efforts, as you say. But small companies in vertical industries can benefit by pooling their efforts, and it can be expected that some will try.

    • But what articles like this can provide is an opportunity to lay out the different areas of risk that need to be considered, and then address how each of these can be examined and dealt with properly. The biggest obstacle to OSS in the corporate arena is simple unfamiliarity more than anything. A manager who's thinking of making an OSS recommendation needs to have good information backing him up when he makes the pitch to his/her superiors...
  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:00PM (#6326280) Homepage
    ...is easily big enough to polish and support OSS in house (they have nearly 5,000 support staff world wide and 2,000 developers supporting 100,000 workstations). They get no support direct from Microsoft. They have no interest in making money from software - things (and there are a lot of things) that get written in house stay in house, no matter what the commercial potential.

    And yet they still don't use OSS, despite the fact that it would offer them huge cost savings, less problems with obsolescence, a decent code base for internal development and many other advantages. It's really, massivly bizarre why why don't see what they could gain.

    Perhaps they have been locked in a cuboard for the last 10 years and don't realise it exists?

    Mind you, this _is_ British industry - a culture exists where if there had been a practice of lopping off the foot of every new hire for the last 20 years it would carry on forever, because 'that's the way we have always done things'.
    • The point of "That's the way we have always done things" is that if it didn't work, then there would be no business left. Alot of people here will have worked on systems/software that are ancient in terms of computing technology, but they are still in production because they work. It's all about risk management, and it's less risky just to stay where you are and continue to make a profit with your current business model.
      • Consider a big company that once (20/25 years ago) have spent a great deal of money buying a make-it-all (altough proprietary) system that solves many problems of this (not so) fictious company, and have no flaw that prevents it to work properly.

        Would this company replace its system only because it's proprietary and possibly spent more money? I think the answer depends on how much "more money" is.

        In my homecity, the local library still uses an old server with dumb terminals, and I think the whole adminis

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I decleare this post -1, troll^H^H^Hue, because its TRUE but only a troll understands why.

    Debian : We don't like USB, we wan't you to use our 2.2 kernal and force you to use PS/2 mice. Oh, we want you to use X4.1 and Gnome 1.4 as your "desktop" that is you have a five year old graphics card.

    KDE : We like to have giant throbbing buttons and eye candy, but we don't want you running it on enything less than a Athlon 3000 with 1GB of ram.

    GNOME : We won't give you proper file dialog or split pane in nautlus b
  • Zzzzzz... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cenobita (615440) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:11PM (#6326323)
    Wonderful. I can't wait until phrases like "Open Source engagement spectrum" become commonplace.

    Maybe i'm a little naive about the needs of enterprise users (a term that seems to be more and more misused as a selling point), but this article makes things seem a lot more complex than they need to be. Engaging the open-source community? Five levels of involvement? Gimme a break.

    A business that's considering moving into widespread use of open-source software has a lot to consider, that much is obvious. However, the article strikes upon the most resonant point simply by mentioning that a company has to consider what suits their business best.

    Most of what this article touches upon is simply extraneous, as it's covering basically what one goes through when deciding on *any* software. Budget constraints, long-term cost, difficulty of adoption for the end-user, and so on and so forth.
    The community should be taken into consideration as necessary; it's a resource like any other, and your level of participation is dependent upon your needs as a company. Go with a commercial vendor, you get tech support, plus the benefit of community feedback and assistance. Go with a free one, you negate the tech support and interact with the community at large as much as necessary.

    Honestly, if you're running a company and need a guidebook on how to engage with a community of developers and users, you need to step back and re-evaluate your tactics. This is mindless cruft for managers without a clue as to how to interact with people. "Deciding to engage"..pff. What are we, the friggin' Borg?

    I can't help but be reminded of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, where a so-called expert is on stage droning on about the various levels of a dope fiend. You can describe as many "levels" or "points" as you like, but in the end, software is software, a dope fiend is a dope fiend.

    Regardless of how you "engage", considerations like your budget and potential risks as a result of a adoption are pretty damned universal. It's not a goddamned 5-step program.
    • No, no, no... you don't get it. Managementy types love this kind of talk. "Five levels of involvement"... heh... good stuff. If it doesn't make sense, the better!

  • by imsmith (239784) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:16PM (#6326352)
    My experience is that Enterprises which do not view software as a capital investment, don't treat the procurement of software as an investment. In that respect, they get trapped into the same vicious cycle of vendor lock-in as the common consumer, and it costs them a lot of money later.

    I think that as Enterprise IT managers start to wake up to the costs of vendor lock-in for tailored or custom applications, the response will be a demand for greater control.

    Total control is obviously Free and Open source.
    Code escrow it the next degree of control - think, when the corporate development and support ends, the source is delivered to the Enterprise.
    Finally, proprietary code with an extended waranty that provides no-cost fixes for custom or tailored software that fails to perform as advertised is the minimum degree of control that would be required by the Enterprise for it to be considered a capital investment.

    I can think of a half-dozen crappy custom product vendors that couldn't survive such a method being adopted by a broad slice of their market, and I think it would make the world a better place.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'd be more apt to listen to people from the OSS Community if they started bathing, shaving, and look less like dirty hippies and more like professionals.

    Oh, it's true, it's true.
  • Here, software is not made by armies of "Microserfs" employed by a giant corporation, but by armies of volunteer programmers who "donate" their code to the *public domain.*

    public domain != OpenSource/Free Software

    i'm worry about people dont getting this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:26PM (#6326391)
    Is that a scientific experiment to see how much bullshit the general public will accept?

    What were they thinking when they wrote sentences such as "Engagement with an Open Source community is a continuum"? Whom were they trying to impress with this pseudo-scientific marketing fill-word collection?

    They go on and on about the various ways in which a company can contribute to the open source community, but completely fail to say why a company would want to do that in the first place! The first installment of this diatribe was even worse, containing some vague assertions like "open source software is more stable" or "open source software is much more secure" and didn't even begin to consider backing this drivel up with facts of any kind.

    Argh! Just read this little gem here: "This first decision is not a foregone conclusion, because different enterprises and IT organizations have differing objectives, resources, capabilities, enabling factors, and business constraints." Even pros like Accenture couldn't have packed less content and more hype fillwords into a single paragraph!

    But the best part is the "conclusion" where they simply assert "In this paper we've reviewed the definition and advantages of Open Source software". Uh, WTF?!

    Waaah, I want to puke when I read this crap! They actually have a headline called "High Level Process" and then proceed to talk about "milestones" and "enabling factors" and "identifying opportunities", it's like an ugly satire on KPMG, Accenture and all the other hype bubble spewers. It could be right out of one of these hollow Gartner Group reports, just blowing in a different hype horn.

    This is exactly the kind of lip service the open source community does not need. I say: stay with your SAP friends.

    On the other hand, maybe it's a good sign that the open source market is now big enough to attract their share of parasites.
    • What were they thinking when they wrote sentences such as "Engagement with an Open Source community is a continuum"? Whom were they trying to impress with this pseudo-scientific marketing fill-word collection?

      I see an objective and insightful article here. It's not clear to me what you are whining about, perhaps you are trying to appear cool by dissing it? Remember, it wasn't written for you, it's obviously aimed at managers.

      They go on and on about the various ways in which a company can contribute to
      • if you see both objectivity and insight at the same time, your eyes see w/ neither. insight comes from intimacy w/ some matter, whereas objectivity relies on consensus of the senses only. better to say frankly that you enjoyed the article and agreed w/ it enough to be willing to read more in the same vein.

        back on topic: it would be nice for managers to engage in their own open-foo initiatives, like: open-door policy, timely feedback on well-delineated expectations, actual participation in the work to

  • by God! Awful 2 (631283) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:40PM (#6326453) Journal
    In Part 1 of the article, the authors like to point out how OSS turns the tragedy of the commons into the triumph of the commons. Then in Part 2, they tell you how to "engage" with the OSS community in order to get higher quality software. This article is never going to convince businesses to switch to open source because it never uses the magic words: this is how to make money fast.

    The "triumph of the commons" argument is a obvious example of how arguments by analogy can be used to support a ridiculous conclusion. OSS opponents deride the GPL because they say the tragedy of the commons will prevent anyone from making any money. The authors respond "No, it's the triumph of the commons because the result is high quality software." That's great, but you're still evading the real question.

    Show me the money!
    Show me the money!
    Show me the money!

    -a
    • OK, I bit - I'll show you the money.

      In emerging markets like Asia, where the tech industries are set to take off (China, for instance, which is greatly outdistancing the US in the number of technical professionals it is producing - a cursory visit to any graduate engineering program at a university near you will prove assertion). How will they challenge the megabucks of the oligopolies that have sweetheart deals with proprietary software companies to make their benchmarks sing? The only effective way to ch

      • In emerging markets like Asia, where the tech industries are set to take off. How will they challenge the megabucks of the oligopolies that have sweetheart deals with proprietary software companies to make their benchmarks sing? The only effective way to challenge them is to form consortiums that produce OSS to rival the proprietary offerings. Personally, I think the best choice for a license that these companies could adopt would be the GPL

        I have no doubt that the Chinese tech industry is poised to take
        • The reason that Chinese companies would choose the GPL is because it has proven to be wildly popular with the widest array of people that use and develop OSS. IBM suports the GPL and backs that up with money and developers. But then I guess you think IBM is just stupid? The hardware companies will be making their money off hardware, not software, so it will behoove them to appeal to the largest, most diverse community.

          You stated: "...nobody in China gives a lick about intellectual property anyway."

          Actua


          • Actually, I think the Chinese care a lot about IP

            Right... That's why the rate of music piracy in China is over 90% (according to a /. article a few months ago). That's why you can get every conceivable pirated movie in Chinatown. That's why all my Chinese friends (at least the immigrants) pirate software. Believe me, the only thing they like about GPL'ed software is that it's free. I've talked to them about this in some detail and they have no qualms about stealing GPL'ed code either.

            that concern will
            • My biggest beef with your various takes is that you color China as some sort of immoral IP scofflaw - perhaps I imply too much, but probably not. When it comes to IP, morality and ethics factors in not at all for current U.S. businesses. If we, the U.S., were really that concerned with the Chinese making off with IP, then we'd be actively pursuing regime change within that country, and not letting companies like Cisco build the Great Firewall of China, which only strengthens the power of said regime. It is


              • My biggest beef with your various takes is that you color China as some sort of immoral IP scofflaw - perhaps I imply too much, but probably not.

                I'm not trying to slander China. I'm merely pointing out that modern day Chinese adults didn't grow up in the same kind of culture we did.

                When it comes to IP, morality and ethics factors in not at all for current U.S. businesses.

                No doubt. But if the employees in those companies need to be complicit then cultural attitudes matter.

                If we, the U.S., were reall
  • by Pettifogger (651170) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @04:46PM (#6326482)
    As someone who deals with business stuff, this sort of heavy-handed corporatespeak really puts me off. It puts off others, too, but a lot of suits are reluctant to admit it.

    People usually use this kind of language to somehow "prove" that whatever they have is "serious" and "businesslike."

    Here's a better idea: Computers are so flippin' cheap these days. If you want to sell OSS services, get ahold of the IT manager, or even better, the CFO of the corporation and drop $200 to GIVE them a FREE box with FREE software on it. $200 is cheaper than most advertising, and I guarantee you that it would be booted, played with, kicked over to IT for awhile, and so on. If a CFO (or other high exec) sees that OSS genuinely works and how much money they can save... well, that's the kind of thing that will make a sale. Throwing a bunch of corporatespeak at people is well, what all the other corporations do. No one really pays attention to it, they only care about the bottom line. The effects have to be effectively demonstrated.

  • Other ways (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GigsVT (208848) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @06:09PM (#6326885) Journal
    I feel like a broken record, but what has been very effective for our company is not usually mentioned in these kinds of discussions.

    We found an open source app that did nearly what we needed, so we contracted the developer to add features for us (into the main open source version).

    Obviously this works best when there is one person or a company behind a project, and also when the features you need are in line with the overall direction the developer is willing to take the project.

    I envision a system where this could be expanded, where end users would bid competitively on which features to be added or bugs to be fixed. I've seen some attempts at realizing this sort of system, but none have caught on in a big way.

    This could even work in a micropayment world, since a central site could take a block donation of a minimum of say $20-50 and then you could split that up as small as a dollar at a time between different projects, features, and bugs. The developers would get paid in minimum sized chunks too, so on both sides, the traditional barriers to micropayments (high transaction costs) are reduced.

    Think of it kinda like a bug bounty that some projects do before a major release, but instead of being initiated by the developers, it would be initiated by the users.

    An economy like this of development work ensures that the bugs that are most important get fixed, and the features that people want get added too.
    • Re:Other ways (Score:4, Insightful)

      by droleary (47999) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @08:31PM (#6327562) Homepage

      We found an open source app that did nearly what we needed, so we contracted the developer to add features for us (into the main open source version).

      Honestly, this is the way for a business to "engage" the open source community. The article is puffery and completely neglects that software is made open precisely because it is something that is intended to be seen as a service industry and not a product industry. As an author, I would naturally appreciate code tweaks from others, but what I really would like is to be paid to work on the code, and that is especially true if a business is involved. That is, I'd be more appreciative if I were paid directly to update the code rather than the company paying someone else to work on my code and then submit it to me.

      I envision a system where this could be expanded, where end users would bid competitively on which features to be added or bugs to be fixed. I've seen some attempts at realizing this sort of system, but none have caught on in a big way.

      I've tried this at my company [subsume.com] under the name Serviceware [subsume.com]. It's not caught on or even been profitable, but it does seem like the best way for a company to approach open source and/or software as a service.

    • In our shop we have made major changes to some existing projects (one of the photographed JBoss devs comes from our dev team). But we don't do that all the time, because sometimes there is a competitive advantage in what we do, so we can't be using an existing package and improve it.
  • by josh crawley (537561) on Sunday June 29, 2003 @08:54PM (#6327660)
    ... with the open source community:

    • Asking a question on IRC and being told to RTFM
    • Posting to a newsgroup and being told to RTFM
    • Writing an email and being told to RTFM
    • Posting to Slashdot and being told to RTFM
    Did I miss any?

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