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Committed to Open Source

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Committed to Open Source

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When Oracle announced it would no longer offer commercial support for future versions of GlassFish, many people started to "defend" Open Source and blame Oracle. More important than this particular example, I think it is about time that the software industry starts to re-think about how to work with Open Source developers and Open Source technologies.

The best blog entry I've read on this subject, is this article from David Blevins: http://www.tomitribe.com/blog/2013/11/feed-the-fish/. If you didn't read it yet, I highly recommend doing so. I completely agree with his analysis. I hear similar sounds outside the Java EE area as well, and I am worried about this. It appears the industry has created a culture where it is assumed that some geeks will spend all their spare time to "Open Source" products. If those geeks somehow want to be refunded, they are not cool anymore. The industry decided that they have to start a consulting company around their Open Source products. That is valid business model, and to be honest, at LodgON, we're actually doing this with DataFX, the Open Source JavaFX enterprise framework I co-develop. DataFX is all open and free, but we offer commercial support for companies that want to integrate it in their own products or projects.

To be honest, I think forcing open-source developers in this area is a bad idea. It can be a success story though. Some of the brightest open-source developers are capable of starting a company, e.g. look at what my old cohort Dries Buytaert did: after founding Drupal, he co-created Acquia and Acquia is now a leading technology company. That is great, and I have lots of respect for developers like Dries that also have skills for creating a company, an organization and a culture.

Other developers, however, don't have the skills or simply the interest in doing this. They want to do what they are good at: writing code. Those people are often very bad in marketing themselves. Those people often spend lots of time in writing code, in answering questions on forums, in talking about their passion on conferences,... but they don't get a proper reward for it. At the contrary, they might get blamed on forums for not implementing new features fast enough, or by not answering soon enough. Nevertheless, their value to our software heritage can not be underestimated. It is time the industry shows more respect to them. Geeks have to pay their bills as well.

There is an alternative, where a single company funds an Open Source project. This is what happened with GlassFish, and that failed. As David Blevins wrote in his blog entry: "Not even IBM or Oracle can pick up the bill for Open Source forever." Open Source needs the involvement from a community (apart from potential involvement from one or a few companies), but the community somehow need to be rewarded for this.


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