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Linux Business IT

Should Enterprise IT Give Back To Open Source? 312

snydeq writes "InfoWorld reports on the fight over open source 'leeches' — companies that use open source technology but don't give back to the open source community. While some view such organizations as a tragedy of the commons, others view the notion of 'freeloaders' as a relic of open source's Wild West era, when coding was a higher calling and free software a religion. To be sure, increased adoption by mainstream enterprises has played a hand in changing the terms of this debate. Yet, as the biggest consumer of open source software, enterprise IT still gives almost nothing back to the community, critics contend, calling into question the long-term effect corporate culture will have on the evolution of open source — and the long-term effect open source will have on rewiring companies toward collaboration."
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Should Enterprise IT Give Back To Open Source?

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  • not entirely true (Score:4, Informative)

    by InsertWittyNameHere ( 1438813 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:37AM (#28167113)

    Corporations pay for those hefty service contracts.

    In my office we use an open source wiki and we pay thousands of US dollars a year for support/maintenance contracts.

    There's probably not much code contribution as most IT people don't have a software development background. Those who do have the skills lack the time.

  • by Virak ( 897071 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @09:49AM (#28167289) Homepage

    No, you don't seem to be very clear on this. While I don't agree with these complaints, you are blatantly wrong on three counts. First, it is not the community as a whole, it is a subset of it, and a tiny one at that. Second, free as in speech, not as in beer. Third, they aren't asking for "compensation".

  • by StylusEater ( 1206014 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @10:33AM (#28167891)

    "You are aware or rsync and power of bash, right?"

    I certainly am. Part of the code base included a nice wrapper around rsync, monitoring, statuses and etc.

    "Of course you will be ridiculed. You managed to rage-out for no reason at all. While you could think yourself and file-sync messiah,..."

    I don't think I'm the file-synce messiah. I leave that to the almighty FSM...

    " should look up success rates of OS projects."

    I'm well aware of the "success rates" but it doesn't hurt to try.

  • by Dan Ost ( 415913 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:12AM (#28168451)

    No, distribution within an organization does not constitute distribution in regards to the GPL.

  • by vinn ( 4370 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @11:43AM (#28168841) Homepage Journal

    This is directed at all of you middle level managers out there. Yes you.

    I worked on one of the large open source projects for over 5 years. I saw the day in, day out grind of the project. Now I'm a middle level manager in the IT world and I'm seeing things from the other side. It's one thing if you use a small, free utility a few times a week. It's quite another if you're running your business on it. Now, lots of people here are saying "blah blah, it's free, it's ok to not contribute." I say BS. All take and no give just makes you a jerk. If each of us just helps a little bit, we only make things even better.

    There are a TON of things you can do that don't involve donating code, it just requires you get off your lazy butt and do something.

    • I bet your company has a way of making charitable contributions. Do you know how that works? You probably fill out a form and give it to someone. They evaluate the merits of the application and possibly write a check. If you write something like, "This piece of free software saved us $20,000 in implementation costs last year." and then fight for it, you can probably get some $$$ from your company to donate back to the project. Yes, projects like money. Even if it's just for beer money.
    • Donate documentation. All documentation can be better, take some time to get someone to make it better.
    • Translate. A lot of open source projects have i18n capabilities and if you have someone that can translate the English into Swahili it'd be appreciated.
    • Forum mongering / bug reporting. Hang out in the forums for the project, answer questions. Log into the project's bugzilla and triage bugs. No bugzilla? Offer to set one up for them and host it.
    • Use your secret manager-fu skills to help the project out. This can mean different things, but sometimes it's very helpful to have someone act as an organizer, a lightning rod, or in general a communicator for a project. For instance, once there was a project that could really benefit by having about 5 VMWare licenses. I realized none of the developers lived in the US or spoke English as a native language. Therefore, it was easiest for me to make some phone calls and get the licenses - I called VMWare and arranged the whole thing. It took about 2 hours but was immensely useful for development.
    • Hire interns. How does your intern policy work? Do you even know? Sometimes it's possible to get an intern to work for you and in turn you can donate some of the intern's time to work on a project.
    • Are your vendors using open source? Get them to contribute back in one of these ways too. Talk to them about it - get them to understand why it's important.

    So, if you're a mid-level manager and you say "I can't" donate to open source projects, then you're just being lazy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:01PM (#28169129)

    And even if it did, the only obligation is to provide the source to the people you distribute the software to. A company-wide policy advising against distributing internal versions of the software to anyone outside would do a decent job of keeping the changes within the company.

  • by M. Baranczak ( 726671 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:04PM (#28169173)

    Now we complain that these corporations are taking advantage ...

    What's this "we" business? "We" are not complaining, one guy is complaining and he got his complaint posted on /.

    The freeloaders are a fact of life. And they don't really bother me. The value of a piece of software is what it can do for me; it's not dependent on scarcity. If a thousand other people start using this software, it has absolutely no effect on what I can do with it.

  • by ToasterMonkey ( 467067 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @01:16PM (#28170093) Homepage

    You must mean Larry Ellison, and I think you understated it.

  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Monday June 01, 2009 @05:46PM (#28174329)

    Depends on what you mean by "vigorous." If hunger was the only factor, then the food industry would simply consist of a few basic staples, perhaps combined into a bland mash and labeled "food."

    But restaurants often have demands for food that go far beyond the simple satiating of hunger, and beyond what the typical consumer might buy on their own. They enable a diversity of gourmet and fresh food producers who might not be viable without restaurants.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN