Monday, December 1, 2008

Make money from open source? Umm, no.

Computer rigeneriamociImage by rigeneriamoci via FlickrOn Open Source:
Companies have long hoped to make money from this freely available software by charging customers for support and add-on features. Some have succeeded. Many others have failed or will falter, and their ranks may swell as the economy worsens. This will require many to adopt a new mindset, viewing open source more as a means than an end in itself.
- Open Source: The Model Is Broken
Umm... Duh.

Let's look at a couple of the premises of Open Source.
  1. Open Source code is higher quality
  2. Anyone can modify it
  3. The more successful the software it, the larger the community.
Now, lets look at the business model.
  1. Give software away for free
  2. Charge for support
  3. Charge for custom development
You're giving the software away for free so you can't charge for a license. Charging for support means that when something breaks or your clients need help, you help them in exchange for a yearly or monthly fee. Unfortunately, by making your product a successful open source project, you destroy the value of your support contracts (see 1 and 3 in the first list). You say you want to charge for customization like a consultant? See number 2 in the above list. That project is going to the lowest bidder. Also, good luck making that scale.

What sucks here is that I like open source. And to make something sustainable, you have to be able to make money off of it. I don't know how to do that. The original author might, but he just spent two pages not telling us.

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The Best Programming Books of 2008

Smalltalk booksImage by eMaringolo via FlickrThere's a thread over at Stack Overflow asking for the Best Programming Books in 2008. I think I'm missing out because I've only read one of them: Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications.

It can be hard to keep up with what's been going on in the world of programming so I appreciate these lists. They help keep me up to date.

These are the books that are on my reading list, but only one of them is from 2008.

  1. Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture (Addison-Wesley Signature Series)

  2. Real World Haskell

  3. Smalltalk 80: The Language

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Unless you do something, listening is a waste of time

Image via WikipediaListening is hard. It's easier to ignore and rationalize. What's harder though is learning from those conversations and applying what you've learned. The real reason? People don't like change. It scares them.

Dave Winer's recent article - If you never listen you never learn - makes this point. He also offers an anecdote where they listened to one suggestion from one user "and company went from being in the brink of shutting down to gushing cash".

Yes, if you listen you can learn, but unless you're willing to do something about it, its a wasted effort.

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