Monday May 11, 2009

Are liberal licenses a better future proofing?

A couple of days after the Kable Open Source conference, I looked up Gianugo Rabellino's blog and read his then most recent blog article, "Of Oracle, Sun and Open Development" about the impact of M&A on open source investment protection.

The conclusion I draw from his article is that open source adopters need to make investment protection a selection criteria. Its well understood that the vibrancy of the product community is crucial, so its just obvious that taking a view on the future is as important. Gianugo also argues that liberal licences enhance the ability of a community to survive M&A activity. I think he's probably right, and this means that licence terms might become important even to end user sites who have no intention of distributing software. It may also be worth measuring how diverse an open source development community is before adopting the software.

Its an interesting spin on Alisdair Mangham's comment on licences, (see below) but they didn't debate. Alisdair's comment was that if you don't plan to distribute, you don't need to worry about viral licences, he might well agree on the need to evaluate to protect the development cost.

This is another article that's been hanging around on my machine for longer than is smart. This one I have not back dated.

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Wednesday Apr 22, 2009

You don't manufacture software

Gianugo Rabellino of Source Sense and the Apache Foundation and presented a demolition of the need or inexorability of charging for right to use, he finished this demoltion by quoting Eric Raymond from his paper, "The Magic Cauldron"

"....software is largely a service industry operating under the persistent but unfounded delusion that it is a manufacturing industry. "

Spot on in my opinion, creative workers need to get used to selling time and earning wages again.

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Tuesday Apr 21, 2009

The Third Wave of Adoption

I spoke next, the slides I used, based on Simon Phipps, current pitch are posted on my page at Sun's mediacaster. (I say based, this is a derived work, and I was pleased to be able to use his presentation). I covered how we have got to where we are, the Pioneers, the four freedoms, the geek community and the arrival of the enterprise. We then look at the compelling value of peer production, and the role of licenses in the community, and how to defend against trolls and vultures. One slide, developed by Simon and articulated in Sun's Free and Open Source Licensing White Paper posted at www.sun.com, classes the open source licences into Open, file based and project based licences. The slide I used is posted below

Three Classes of License Slide

. It is clear there are some who think that only the GPL counts as Open Source, but despite its undoubted popularity, there are a number of people and organisations who think that its duty to publish is not always desirable, and the Apache licence. These are not restricted to organisations that pursue a rights based business model. The presentations and white paper talk about community roles and present a model of these roles. The presentation re-inforces the fact that Sun is the largest publisher of Open Source in the world and has a range of produicts and partners to allow open source adopters to what they want.

The slide above is available as a full size .jpg if you prefer it.

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Implementing Opensource

Alisdair Mangham, the head of IS & Development for the LB of Camden argued from experience, as he presented a case study, that you need to own software development expertise to adopt open source and this became a theme for the rest of the day. Alisdair argied for an adoption led deployment, I was interested how yet again, he as do many others argue that Finance is a mission critical function. Its not always true, and becoming less so. Businesses compete on price or by differentiation. Its very hard, or illegal to innovate your finance processes, and price advantage is gained by efficient processes not innovative finance. Today, it should be at the front of the queue for outsourcing. Another GEM from Alisdair is that licence terms are not important to an End-User site and he knows, he's read a few. The point he makes is that unless you are looking to do business as a software house, the liabilities you incur through licence is not important. I wonder if he's considered aquiring indemnity.

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The importance of Open Source

John Pugh MP opened the conference, with a review of the state of software procurement in the UK public sector. He suggested that ubiquity should be the trigger point at which charging for right to use becomes undesirable. I see no justification in this, although the behaviour of the drugs companies and their monopsony buyers is an interesting example of what might happen. I think his own references to Kant, and testing it as a natural law shows that its can't be done. When does something become so ubiquitous that it should be free to use. He also looked at a new tripartite demand for software, the civil servant, the consultant and the provider and wondered how open source providers and their ecosystem could get to the table. He also pointed out the lack of domain expertise often held by the civil servants, which is what causes the need for consultants. It reminds me of projects I have been on when assessing bid/no-bid decisions as to whether we had the expertise to manage the project's profitability. The project managers are easy to find, its people who understand what's going on that are harder.

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