Groklaw, as you know, is a group work. Many thousands of members work
to produce content, and behind the scenes there is daily input, as readers write to me with ideas and suggestions, all of which I take seriously and try to incorporate in planning.
I decided to share one such email, with the sender's permission, because he hit on something that I never would have thought of myself. Groklaw's Tim Daly wrote to me to explain to me what he sees as additional value of Open Source looking at it from the standpoint of future benefits, and he has a suggestion for companies on how they can get the best value from Free and Open Source software. He's been a programmer for 35 years.
This is why Groklaw is effective, by the way. No individual journalist could accomplish what Groklaw has. I certainly couldn't. It was putting all our brains and skills and memories and knowledge together, utilizing the Internet to do what it does best -- create a networked work space, so anyone in the world can contribute -- that makes it useful. It's a model that solves the "innovation happens elsewhere" problem.
Here is Tim's email:
You've published several comments about why open source is
valuable. I think the points are valid but they are not forward-looking.
The real value of open source work is only now beginning to emerge.
I've been programming for 35 years. My current boss has been teaching
for about 50 years. His resume boasts 150 papers and 7 books. My
resume mentions work that I've done also. However my work was done
in companies and is proprietary. In almost every case after I left
the company the work was abandoned. Thus the company has wasted both
their money and my time as well as a potentially valuable resource.
If I had done the work as open source then the work would have
Beyond the survival value is the fact that at the time I leave the
company I'm the worlds expert in the work I'm doing. Even though
the company has lost interest in the work there is no reason for it
to die. There may be other companies who need the same kind of work.
If a company needs software and there is open source
software that does what is needed they can just reach out and grab it.
Usually the software is "not exactly" what is needed and someone in
the company has to modify and maintain it. This isn't optimal. The
better idea is to find someone who is an expert in the software you
need and hire them to customize it.
The best person to hire to customize open source software is the
Now that there is a large body of FOSS software smart companies should
be looking at these projects as "resumes" for the developers. The smart
company would find the best FOSS software that is closest to their needs
and contract with the developers to customize it. They can judge the
quality of the work by the quality of the source code and they can judge
the individual by the mailing list archives.
I predict that there will be an economic shift around open source
software. Developers will "job shop" with smart companies to rapidly
customize software. Companies will "lease" developers for short term
tasks. The result will be added to the open source pile.
So the real value of open source is that it will free software
development from the death trap of company interest. The next
generation of companies won't hire programmers for the long term.
And the next generation of programmers will have 150 programs and
7 books they can still use.