Christopher's Corner Page:
OPEN SOURCE vs. NON-OPEN SOURCE
Written By: christopher - 2010-3-4
Open Source vs. Non-open source
This debate will go on and on. Lest not forget that MINISIS was the forebearer of the concept of technology for all. In the 1970's it was MINISIS that was free and collaborative teams worked together to build our core. It was partners in Scandinavia, France, Egypt, Morrocco, the US and the Netherlands that helped MINISIS grow. But that collaboration wasn't cheap and there were no marketing hungry entities on the internet to help justify costs. All that work, whether paper money changed hands or not, cost millions and millions of dollars. That money came mostly from tax payers. So, you, me and the public. And now, 40 years later – it’s still the public that is ultimately funding open source. Look at how many open source initiatives rely heavily on government related funds. So really, what has changed?
Public funding software development has remained constant. Unfortunately, the public as we know are a mixed group of interesting folk. Some of the folk are tech savvy and others not.
For the sake of this debate, let's just put it out on the table. Open source works because it does provide tools and solutions to those who can use it. It is a great concept to build collaboration. It is a way for those less fortunate to get access to the technology. Interesting. These are all concepts MINISIS Inc shares and I do as its CEO. However, the debate is not done. For if MINISIS shares the values, and has lead the way in this vein of socialistic software development why is it no longer free, open?
Simply, the open source model is flawed until we evolve further. If MINISIS has remained free and open in the high tech market frenzies of the 80s and 90s where people invested millions in High Tech and “dot.coms”- our free, open message was being drowned out. Honestly, “If it’s free, how good can it be?” Was something our staff heard a lot. If I had a quarter for every time I heard that). And, that my friend is the problem, in a society where value is assigned by "worth" - there will always be some reservations. For if a developer is building software free, how does he earn a living being a full time open source developer? It has to be volunteer work in amongst a paying career. There's many pluses in developing code and sharing that - I get that. I am certain that is how our Team at MINISIS feels and they can take pride in what they deliver. However, noble eventually we all succumb to wanting the good things in life to even just the basics sometimes. Therefore, the model is flawed. And that is where the debate ends.
I've lived free software, pushed relentlessly MINISIS during the amazing rise of Oracle and Microsoft. MINISIS shouted from the rooftops, "affordable technology" is necessary. We knew as long as technology was only usable by the rich nations, poor nations would always be left behind. We know, "databases do good things”. They allow us to enter data, turn the data into information and information leads to knowledge and knowledge leads to power". I don't know where I heard that or picked it up, but it became my mantra.
Therefore, open source is not bad. Yes, the CEO of a private software house agrees open source is a good initiative. However, I look at the debate similar to small grass roots organisations that unite to do something together. Sometimes they merge and become bigger, more organised and soon you lose that direct energy, touch from the grass roots. I think that is inevitable. We love to build successes. Success equals fame, fortune or for some of us - we measure it in how many we have helped, changes made for the better, those more altruistic initiatives.
Unfortunately, I lived through the epoch when the collaborations cannot withstand various pressures. Budgets are cut, interest wains and the economy takes a downturn. The software collaborations and deliverables fall off track, software releases are delayed. Worse, someone finds a weakness, a memory leak or worse. Who's there to fix it? With no immediate renumeration, money along with no prestige and limited time; the answer is likely, “no one”. You can only rely on the good intentions and good ACTIONS of people. We cannot all be Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire who said, “I have alwaysdepended on the kindness of strangers”. I am trusting, open, but ultimately it is not in my nature to depend on strangers.
So open source versus non-open source software? I can tell you from living through the ups and downs and pendulum shifts - the debate will never end. Like Mac and PC there will be a rivalry at times. But there is clearly one leader. I admire open source developers and deep down within my heart of hearts, I hope we can get MINISIS to that stage again. However, to build powerful IM/IT tools is not free, nor even cheap. When I look at the responsibility I feel for protecting people's data - I can only hope there is that dedication on the open source side. Hmmmmm. Maybe that is the crux of the issue, Hope. An intangible ‘thing’ like software. I hope that those developers can find ways to do build and contribute – obviously theyare not getting to do that so much in their daily work careers, so it’s a win for everyone. However, if someone is not paying for services rendered eventually a lag will appear, we are hearing and seeing these open source initiatives all over with such issues. Are we doing this information tooling for fun or for productivity and advancement? Are we really going to believe that companies and governments will continue to invest in open source only initiatives only? I don’t think so. That is not what the markets are telling us. So we can hope that those involved in open source will look at the protection of people’s data, people’s needs for information management and people’s access to tools now and delivered in a timely fashion. When these situations arise – there are companies like MINISIS that weather the pendulum shifts and it will be “social entrepreneurialism” that will win out. The ideal model where those who can pay – do. In turn, their investment funds access to those who do not have the resources. A model where the premise is accessibility to software to fit needs and grows organically with a plan and vision. A model where you make yourself open to collaborations but everybody receives something in return. This model will be the future. You heard it here, first. The problem is that it requires new visions, new thinking to generate revenue. Ultimately social entrepreneurialism in software is a new type of approach to the extremes of the open vs non-open software camps. You are not reliant on the kindness of strangers (who may or may not have your security and best intentions at heart), you do not have to “pay” for everything and everyone can feel good as those who pay feel good knowing that their investment is not only giving them a product they need but helping others at the same time. So, staff get rewarded seeing their talents and deliverables used worldwide while earning a living at the same time. Therefore I opt not for open vs non-open source but for “accessible, affordable” and most important reliable and appropriate technology. That is the past and it is the future.