Open Source catfights

James points to the Economist’s take on Open Source business: Open, but not as usual. It’s an interesting piece, arguing

New business models are being built around commercialising open-source wares, by bundling them in other products or services. Though these might not contain any software source code, the open-source label can now apply more broadly to all sorts of endeavour that amalgamate the contributions of private individuals to create something that, in effect, becomes freely available to all.

The tone is interesting; for me there’s an assumption that open source is basically quite risky, with undue emphasis on alleged flaws in things like Wikipedea. James also points to a vigorous fisking of the article by Groklaw, which points out several factual discrepancies in the Economist piece, an ironic sidelight on its questioning of Wikipedia’s factual integrity.

And Tony Goodson pointed me to this rant by Andrew Keen against Glenn Reynolds’ Army of Davids. Keen is a good read but comes across to me as fairly shrill, screeching in hyperbole against hyperbole.

Part of the trouble is that we all like to use terms like Open Source to mean different things. James and I like to talk about a deep and shallow end of the pool. At the shallow end, companies get customers to collaborate in small ways, for instance to create advertising. At the deep end, customers pretty much create the product. There are lots of places in between. Choose the depth, and the sort of risk you take, according to personal taste.

I emphasise sort of there as I’m tired of people lalbelling collaborative approaches as somehow more risky than conventional ones. For me, it’s a choice of different sorts of risk: for instance, the risk of “losing control” or the risk of being ignored as unengaged and boring.


1 thought on “Open Source catfights

  1. IdeaFestival

    Breakthroughs and open source

    The Economist has published an interesting article on the evolving nature of open source software, which is software open to inspection and improvement by many people. Its biggest advantage is that anyone can contribute code, its disadvantage, as the E…


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