Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Open Source Leeches


InfoWorld ran an article this week on "Open Source Leeches"  and it got some responses, one from Daniel Selman of IBM/ILOG.  While the article is spot-on about some companies using Open Source software and keeping their own solutions secret in order to "get the jump" on their competition, it is decidedly UNFAIR to broadly paint all companies with the same swath using a really wide brush.   

For example, IBM/ILOG contributes back to Eclipse.  And the mentioned Southwest Airlines continually contributes back to the Drools project.  Mark Proctor (Drools) is always commenting that "There is no such thing as a free lunch."  His way of handling "leeches" is to just quit responding to their questions after a while.  

My own thoughts here are that many companies either (1) don't NEED to make changes to the product and can use it right out of the box or (2) don't feel comfortable making changes to a vendor product.  In the second case, that is  normally the result is decades of using vendor products "as is" and only making suggestions.

So, maybe Dave Rosenberg (and Bill Snyder) need to research the "problem" more thoroughly and give us some facts and statistics.  For example, how many companies are using Drools, Eclipse, JBoss, etc. for free.  And, out of those companies, how many have made NO contributions to improve the product.  I have a feeling that the "NO contributor" companies will be a really small percentage.  

After all, the "spirit of community software" is NOT that you have everyone contributing to the product, but that you have a few really solid professionals leading the way for the newbies.  Personally, I use lots of "free software" (Mark hates that expression) and rarely contribute to the effort - not because I don't want to but I would have to learn a whole new product each time.  And I only have time for one or two "projects" in my life at one time.   So, I use a lot of them and contribute to only a couple of them.  

Again, folks need to get the facts straight before they leap to unsupportable conclusions.


1 comment:

woolfel said...

If people are worried about leeches as the original eclipse thread states, then don't open source your software. The minute you open source your software, it's out in the wild. It's naive to think or demand people contribute back. I've participated in several open source projects and it's always the case that less than 1% contribute any of significance. JMeter for example has tens of thousands of users. At the peak, jmeter had 3 active developers including myself. Currently there's only 1 active committer. I know many fortune 500 companies use jmeter, but never contribute. Honestly, that doesn't bother me. As long as I can use JMeter for my own needs, that's all I need.

It's when developers with ego issues feel like someone is "taking advantage of them" that the issue comes up. my advice to linux and eclipse developers who feel that way is to wake up and grow up.

If you want to get paid for it, don't open source it. If want to share it, it's out of your control. All the moaning about leeches only goes to show how self-centered the person is. At the end of the day, all software die at some point.