Home: Front Page. Introduction.
by Henrik Bechmann
posted February 6, 2005; updated March 3, 2005; moved October 5, 2006
A few of us have been talking about this for a while, and decided to get going. We think that open source software is poised to become mainstream. We like that, and we want to be there.
The question is: How do we approach this? And our answer is -- in the spirit of the open source movement -- through collaboration.
So to get practical about it, we're just plain diving in. This website is a seed, a common ground, a tool.
To be specific, I see my role as a steward, a rainmaker, a manager here, as well as a participant (for more about me, see www.bechmannsoftware.com). I own osscommons.ca, and it's my business to be sure, but this will succeed only if all of you succeed. I think it's that simple. It's a collaboration model, not a partnership model, not a staffing model. Money will flow from projects (the serious stuff). In between those, we "jam", we play, we learn.
To begin I've got the support of two of the best minds I know. Rob Schieck (Mer Systems) is a fabulous systems engineer. He can make anything run at the back end, and in fact his computers are hosting this site. The other, Jay Miller, has a successful vertical market software business (Holus Solutions) in both private and not for profit ("NFP") sectors. He's providing great business direction. My own background is in database application development.
Governance for the moment is consensual. We'll consult, and arrive at consensus as needed. If we need something more formal, there are all kinds of excellent governance models out there in the open source world. We'll work it out as needed. If there's a real gordian knot, I'll slice it.
To facilitate discussion at this early stage, Rob has set up a mail discussion list. You can join this at [to be determined].
So please, whether you're a nerd, a technical manager, or a business person: poke around, enjoy, get in touch, and let's have some fun!
by Henrik Bechmann
posted January 2, 2005
Here is a sketch of my core ideas regarding the open source space, as it relates to osscommons.ca: The market is now embracing open source (1. Market Acceptance); There are reasons for that (2. Experience); There is a set of underlying attitudes that help to propel the market (3. The "Sociology"); The pieces are all available (4. Putting it all together).
1. Market Acceptance
The success and growth of open source software is well known. For the classic LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python) set of applications for example:
- For Linux look here (shows worldwide installs on 1.3% of PC's)
- For the Apache HTTP server here (shows just under 70% market share)
- For MySQL here (showing it to be the number 3 database -- after SQL Server and Oracle -- in a recent poll)
- for PHP here (showing its use in almost 18M domains, 1.3M IP addresses)
On the Desktop:
- Open Office has made inroads (stats here, showing over 32M downloads)
- Firefox the browser has made impressive gains in the past year, sending Microsoft's share of the browser market to below 90% for the first time in many years (example article here; stats here showing downloads of about 14M as of last December 2004)
IDC is projecting growth in acceptance of Linux-based desktops from 3.4M in 2002 to 10M+ by 2007, to 6% of the desktop market (see the Computerworld article)
There's also the GIMP (photo processing), Compière (ERP); sourceforge.net has over 65,000 projects on the go, and I could go on.
As an example (there are many) of the kind of thinking and research that goes into the benefits of open source, here's an article that surveys Europe's acceptance of open source. Surprisingly, price is not the major factor (But France for instance, thinks it's pretty important). The main reasons cited are:
- Higher stability
- Better access protection
- Higher performance
- Better functionality
There seems to be a consensus that open source software as commodity is where success and the future lie (see for example Tim O'Reilly's Open Source Paradigm Shift article (in which he makes the case for the service/bundling business model).
For a broader analysis, see the book The Success of Open Source by Steven Weber, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, from Harvard University Press, in which the author examines the implications of the emergence of a new, and possibly pervasive, economic model: "The elementary political economy question about open source software
is simple. Why would any person choose to contribute -- voluntarily --
to a public good that she can partake of, unchecked, as a free
rider on the effort of others?" From the book review: "Weber argues that the success of open source is not a freakish exception to economic principles. The open source community is guided by standards, rules, decisionmaking procedures, and sanctioning mechanisms."
However, integration challenges and support issues, as well as management issues can plague open software projects (see a list of some open-source weaknesses for example, at Step Two, an Australian content management consulting firm). Lack of documentation and poor usability are often cited: "software by nerds for nerds".
It seems to me that our role now is to provide the integration support, the resources to ameliorate weaknesses, and the project experience and skills to make high quality decisions, and make the installations succeed.
3. The "Sociology"
Wikipedia has an entry on open source culture. Although quite varied, open source culture often demonstrates great generosity, a collegial spirit, and much professional pride. It can also be a little impertinent, even radical, not to mention occasionally arrogant, even obnoxious.
In any case, there is no doubt that the open source culture cannot be ignored; indeed it is at the root of the movement's success. This is why we place collaboration at the heart of the concept of this OSSCommons initiative.
4. Putting it all together
The pieces are there: the technology (lots of it), the general experience, and the culture. There are also legal, management, and business issues. A lot to deal with. The solution? Pretty obvious: an open source community, where we can help each other out.
This is not the only community of course, and there will be many more. We'll share with them too, particularly on the Canadian front. Meanwhile, in our own world here, we'll try to have a place for all the pieces, beginning with:
- A Community area
[pending]: where information can change hands, networking (electronic and personal!) can take place, ideas can start, debates can take place. All free.
- A Playground area
[pending]: not always completely free, but almost. The idea is to try stuff out. Some would call it "feasibility studies", or "proofs of concept", or just plain learning. Here the main rule for new ventures or explorations will be to publish what you do and what you learn (good and bad), so that everyone can benefit, and possibly help. We'll pitch in with the systems resources at the back end, for qualified projects.
- A Business area
[pending]: where commercial projects are managed, ongoing open source services are hosted, private project management areas are offered, and the "nose to the grindstone" work happens. The goal here always will be to succeed. We may act as contractor, or agent, or support, or just host. This is where we generate revenue.
- And of course a Projects area
[pending]: where open source projects that any of us initiate can be hosted.
If you are interested in open source software in a Canadian context, you are welcome here. Hexhead, manager, buyer, business person, or any other role. Please feel free to poke around, ask questions, make comments, or dive right in to the deep end.
All the best,
- Henrik Bechmann