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To read comments to this article, go here
The Real Value of Open Source Going Forward - by Tim Daly
Monday, May 16 2005 @ 12:40 PM EDT

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:

*****************************

PJ,

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 survived.

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 lead developer.

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.

Tim Daly


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