Thoughts on Open Source Software

Open KeyBusinesses can learn much from Open Source thinking, both when it comes to increasing corporate efficiency and to making people happy at work. A while back I even wrote about an Open Source project that was optimized for fun (-O fun).

So if you want to learn a little about the principles behind Open Source Software, here are three good places to look:

Why Software Should Be Free by Richard Stallman
Those who benefit from the current system where programs are property offer two arguments in support of their claims to own programs: the emotional argument and the economic argument.

The emotional argument goes like this: “I put my sweat, my heart, my soul into this program. It comes from me, it’s mine!”

The economic argument goes like this: “I want to get rich (usually described inaccurately as `making a living’), and if you don’t allow me to get rich by programming, then I won’t program. Everyone else is like me, so nobody will ever program. And then you’ll be stuck with no programs at all!” This threat is usually veiled as friendly advice from the wise.

This is the standard text behind free software and Stallman is the original guru. Also remember to read up on the difference between free beer and free speech.

Early Perspectives On Open Source by Dennis Forbes
At the time, I was a fervent admirer of Microsoft and their Ways — a position that lead to endless accusations that I was a paid astroturfer for the so-called Evil Empire — not to mention that I was, and remain, a true believer in the capacity for financial incentive to encourage innovation and product excellence.

My opponent, in contrast, was a GPL-embracing, Linux-advocating, Microsoft-hating, Stallmanesque sort. He’d finger through his unkempt beard (where one would expect to find stray noodles from a prior meal), and after trying to convince anyone listening that recompiling one’s kernel with drivers specific for the target environment was an ideal arrangement, he’d tear into the evils of closed source commercial software, passionately arguing that closed source, along with intellectual property hoarding, was a moral sin.

A very nuanced look from a developer who came from the closed side and moved towards the open source approach.

Open Source As Much About The People As The Code
“The code without the people is worth nothing,” according to Phillipe Cases, partner at VC firm Partech International. “A million lines of code is like a million problems that you have to solve. So the risk on any open source investment project is that the 2-3 guys that created it and maintain it could leave. The commitment of the developers is often the IP — not the code itself.”

Isn’t it always about the people?

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