The Journey from Open Source to Open Mind
Open source is about permission to use the source code, design documents and content of the product. It is supposed to be a labor of love, but there would be a lot more love if there were a lot more money.
So, start getting the best for your business and let your company grow by using an open source right now if you don’t want to miss out this very amazing trip. Into Open Source
Until 2006, what most people knew about Open Source was that there was an OS called Linux, and its source code was public.
Open source is more than a free software. It’s also more their GPL or any other license. Open source is a mindset. It’s the way to think about source code not like a property but as something you can share.
As the ancient humans start writing to pass on knowledge, the ancient programmer starts to release code in open source because he wants to pass on his knowledge. And it’s not just a way to be listened to and satisfy the ego. It’s more like a way to gift something to the community — in return for what the community gives to you.
Reasons That Blocks Companies from Developing for Open Source
Why should a company release some part of their source code to everybody — and maybe even for free?
It makes no sense because the company spends money to pay its developers to write code. All that they produce has a value that can be sold and released. We know companies aren’t all nonprofit, so how they can gain from this?
There are very big issues if you look very quickly at the open source business model. The big issues producing open-source products: centralized costs and benefits distributed to others.
So, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Red Hat … all of these multi-billionaire companies are masochists? I don’t think so, and I think their business is, in fact, oriented to produce margin.
So why do they invest in open source? The answer is easy: Open source isn’t only a cost. It produces profits. How?
There are many ways in which open source can bring value to a company:
- Brand equity and identity: It gives visibility to the company and helps to convince their tech users that the brand is cool and open to extensions.
- Community: The community user is a sponsor and evangelist that can spread your product. - Open sounds free: Open source software can be downloaded, and this is understood to be free by most users (on-premise hosting is not). This encourages people to try the product without obligation. - Free debugger: If something is open, everybody who uses it can test and fix issues. Feedback and fixes have a big value and prevent issues for paying customers. - Helps adoption: Being public also means being transparent, and that helps to let people trust the product and adopt it. - Improves quality: Generally, what’s exposed to the public needs a lot of attention and should be of a high quality because it represents the whole company. This forces people to keep a high standard.
Taking into account these points, we understand the previous diagram is a simplistic vision of an open source opportunity. What did we miss? Just the things that matter.
The community you develop can contribute by solving bugs and giving feedback. It’s cash back. The community itself is your selling force — as they’re the evangelist of the product. This reduces marketing costs. This helps the spread and adoption of your product.
Open source has become a driver for making more sells.
Open source is the driver to improve the product and increase adoption
Solve the Conflicts
What we’ve learned so far is the open source community is a big opportunity for companies.
But what about companies that live off of software sales? As the saying goes, “No money, no honey.” But, surprisingly, there’s also a case to be made for open source here. For most of the enterprise products, the open source version is the Trojan Horse that allows people adopt it.
Of course, the product owner is usually good enough to tune the product so most of the unpaid users are users that aren’t opened to paying for the full version. This goal is usually reached by adding some extra features into the paid version that’s essential for enterprise users and optional for entry-level customers.
For a software-as-a service (SaaS) product, usually the on-premises version is open and the hosted one is paid — so the user has to choose if he wants to bring all of the complexity in-house or just pay a little money for the service.
The Benefits for Developers
When I speak about open source with many developers, I read this in their eyes: “Why I should work for free?”
Developing is something more than just work.
The developer is like an athlete. He has to wake up every day and train him or herself. It’s like if you were running a marathon and somebody moved the finish line one meter forward every time you were about to approach it.
As a developer, you have to keep yourself trained — sometimes reinventing yourself to follow the market trends.
Do you think the training on the job is enough? How many companies let you stay at home to study one day at home? Well, working on an open source project is training, and what you learn is yours. That’s big.
Every day you get something from the community. Every day. You use WordPress, Bootstrap, Angular, Java, etc. Every developer uses or includes some open source work in their projects.
So why is it fair to take without giving something back? Think about it: How many days or how much money would you have needed to replace your open source dependencies or tools? Well, giving something back, even a small contribution, can help even the debt.
The community is made up of people, and it’s fun to meet new ones —especially for me since I’m an outgoing type.
Who wants to risk his workplace employing the right technology? Testing a new framework is not a sure bet. It has some risk.
An open source project can be the opportunity to test something new without impacting the production environments. And maybe you can use the power of the community and get some help along the way.
What to Take Home
Open source is more of a philosophy than a thing you can buy.
For developers, it’s a good habit that can increase professionalism and produces values for the developer and the community.
For a company, it helps to be visible and share your products, thereby increasing profits. That’s why all of the big players moved into it. As a company, you still have time to start in the open source game and be distinctive thanks to your open source activity. Don’t wait too much longer, though.
The Open Source Threats
Of course, there are many tricks to the open source rush. In this article, I focused on a lot of the benefits. I did this because generally there’s not a lot of knowledge on the opportunities to be gained by entering the open source mindset.
But there are also threats. From what I learned after many failed projects; the threats are as follows:
- You don’t have enough energy to build the community: Without that, you lose all of the collateral benefits (evangelism, feedback).
- You share something that is to your competitive advantage: Please, if you find the magic potion for eternal life, patent it.
If done correctly, open source is a win-win approach to software development.
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