And more on open source...

Subject: And more on open source...
From: Andrew Plato <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 01:22:05 -0800 (PST)


"Sean Wheller" wrote

> I genuinely believe that there is much to be gained from Open Source. Where
> it's headed and whether or not it will be accepted, who knows. I can say that

> since moving from Microsoft Windows and Commercial Packages my productivity
> has increased. In addition, thanks to Open Source solutions, I have been able

> to implement my own solutions without much resistance from management. It
> seems that when no cost is attached to a solution, that management place less

> importance on issues such as reliability, support etc. Consequently I have
> more time to do my job and spend less time waiting for process and procedure
> to clear a solution through the channels. Perhaps this is another form of
> compensation or reward gained from adoption of Open Source solutions.

It seems to me that what you're describing here is the "individualism" of open
source (OS). OS solutions often work great when a single or very small group of
people are involved.

A single individual can use OS technologies very effectively, if he/she has the
skills to make those technologies function. However, those skills are often
very specialized, and not easily transferable from person to person. This is
particularly true when you consider how little documentation and training there
is for OS technologies.

When OS products are extended to enterprise environments the situation gets
trickier. The lack of training, documentation, support, and the myriad of
business issues begin to collide with the inherently individualistic nature of
OS technologies. This is very evident when you start to compute project costs
and profitability. The fact that OS technologies demand a great amount of
specialized knowledge to make them work effectively makes it difficult to use
them in an environment with a wide diversity of skills.

Thus, to make OS technologies productive for a larger environment, the
organization must invest in their own training, support, and documentation
infrastructure.

This is why most "I made open source work for me" anecdotes are misleading.
They assume that everybody else possesses the EXACT same experience, skills,
and expertise as the individual professing the value of open source. And for
every tale of "I made it work" there are as many, if not more tales of "I spent
two days messing around with this and gave up in frustration."

This is why corporations have been reluctant to sign on to open source in a big
way. And if they have, they usually adopt the technology en masse, generating
their own customized variant of the technology rather than make themselves
dependent on the community.

But at a small, individual level, OS technologies can be very productive and
useful. They offer a flexibility that closed source products often lack.

If larger organizations are going to adopt OS technologies, there needs to be
something that bridges the gap between the "individualism" of OS and the "mass
market" thinking of corporations.

Documentation, training, and standardization are the kinds of things that can
do that. That is an opportunity itself. Something for everybody to consider.

Andrew Plato




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