Sunday, March 21, 2010

Images of Open Source

I'm reading Images of Projects by Mark Winter and Tony Szczepanek. The premise of this book is that projects can be viewed from a number of different perspectives, and the perspective we choose (at a given moment) will influence how we think about the project and other important factors, such as how we make decisions, what is viewed as important, and so on. This book follows the tradition of Gareth Morgan's influential Images of Organization, and certainly brings a much needed higher-level view of the complexities inherent in projects.

These books made me think about images of open source. Off the top of my head I came up with the following:

  • Ideology: The part that emphasizes "free as in freedom," copyleft, and so on.

  • Life style: Related to the Ideology image, but more concentrating on Do It Yourself (DIY) and similar movements.

  • Business Model: Seeing open source as a way of running a business.

  • Marketing Gimmick: Related to the Business Model image, but seeing open source as a marketing tactic to increase visibility, etc.

  • Social Movement: Emphasizes the community aspects of open source, especially around virtual, highly-distributed, ad hoc community dynamics.

  • Mean of Production: Sees open source as one way of producing and managing goods (or knowledge). This is the image where most of my research centers.

This isn't meant to say that these images are exclusive: clearly some images overlap, but I hope that each highlights an important aspect and enables the dynamics that are discussed in the two Images books mentioned above. Also, this list likely needs refinement, so any suggestions would be appreciated. :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

The business of open source, again

Preparing for EclipseCon, I had a chance to browse my past presentations. At EclipseCon 2007 I presented The Garden & the Market: The Value of Eclipse Open Source. This is probably my favorite presentation, and I think there still is a lot to say.

When I gave that presentation in 2007, I was working at a company where open source was a minor means of software creation. Since then I joined Red Hat and now open source is the means of creating software. The whole question of building a business based on open source suddenly becomes more pressing. :)

One aspect I really liked about that presentation was the audience participation. We genuinely had a conversation, one which in several cases lasted longer than the actual presentation itself. I'd like to loop back with the Eclipse community this year, and see how things look three years on. When I arrive at EclipseCon, I'll seek to secure a BoF slot for this purpose, and I look forward to the conversation. If anyone would like to meet separately, please drop me a comment here (or to the email in my profile), and we'll try to meet.