[Idpy-discuss] Open source business models and sustainability

Rainer Hoerbe rainer at hoerbe.at
Mon Mar 11 07:46:45 UTC 2019

Well said, and a discussion to be continued.

In my PoV benefit and success jump into existence in an early stage of a project. There is a need, commercial alternatives suck, and someone hacks up a solution, and thinks OSS is a cooperation model that is superior to contracting someone. Enlightened developers may have all the knowledge about governance, community/license/fund management, but in my experience it is just a seed in a fertile ground, that has to grow a long way to have a core dev team financially supported by a community. As you say, software needs to add value, therefore a major factor to arrive at a mature OSS ecosystem requires to show that the product and its ecosystem add technical and economical value. But this is not so much different to a close source company having to convince its customer base. The key difference is in the distributed structure. Commercial distribution is frequently a split between HQ and off-shore. OSS project may be really distributed in the sense that users fork and merge, reducing the pain of a centralized dev bottleneck. Following Conways Law, this will result in a more flexible dev process and software structure, which is superior on the long run. Again, it is about people, of course.

- Rainer

> Am 2019-02-19 um 01:28 schrieb Ivan Kanakarakis <ivan.kanak at gmail.com>:
> Hello everyone,
> The TIIME meeting kickstarted some very interesting discussions. One
> of the topics on the "Open Source Identity and Access Management "
> track was "Open Source Business models and cooperations for IAM". I
> was there on part of the discussions that started the 2nd day and
> expanded over the next days. The topic is dense and while it was
> directed to the domain of IAM, I think that comes later in the
> picture, after we've discussed and agreed how Open Source works, why
> it is important for us and technology, and how one can benefit from
> (using or investing in) it. Being upfront and clear on why we support
> Open Source is key to understanding how Open Source can support us.
> Trying to not repeat what others have said better and before me, I
> will stay short, and I'll leave you with references to people,
> conferences and organizations that are dedicated to this, to analyze
> in detail the different aspects of the subject.
> IMHO, there are two things that prevent us from reasoning how we can
> benefit (financially among other forms of "benefit") from Open Source:
> 1. the fact that when we talk about Open Source, we usually think
> about software,
> 2. and, that we don't talk about what we mean with terms like
> "success" and "sustainability"
> (1) But, software is about people: We build and create software to
> make certain aspects of people's life easier; it is always about
> adding value to other people. Open Source empowers the users to take
> part on the decisions made for the evolution of the software. This is
> the big differentiator between closed-source and open-source projects.
> Closed-source projects have users, while open-source projects have
> communities.
> The foundation on top of which a successful open source project
> builds, is not the service or product, it is the community. In
> closed-source companies, what has value is either the product, or the
> (almost always, private) data that the product has collected. In
> open-source companies the value is not on the product itself, but on
> the relations between the company and the users. The investment should
> be in maintaining this relationship, building trust, while the product
> evolves both from the core-dev team and the community, with respect to
> the community.
> Now, this is a hard goal. People are difficult, and in the modern
> world even more. Competition is high, deals will almost always benefit
> the closed-source companies and the risk of working in the open is
> higher, precisely because control is not in your hands. However, it is
> not impossible. There are many organizations out there, big (some very
> big) and small, that have succeeded. And this is where (2) comes in.
> Taking into account (1), expectations must be adjusted to the
> difficulties of the reality of Open Source. It is not about marketing
> and selling the product anymore; it is about managing communities and
> continuously delivering value. It takes time and effort to create a
> robust, high quality codebase and userbase, it takes time and effort
> to convince people you are serious about what you do, and it takes
> time and effort to create and maintain relations (not just deals.)
> Time is a very important factor, because it is a limiting factor that
> you cannot avoid. It has direct implications on the scale an Open
> Source business can have. It is unreasonable to compare Open Source
> companies to companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon or any
> other giant out there (not just because of the different business
> models, but also because a big part of the value comes from the data
> collection as well as the data control these companies can exercise.)
> So, we must define what "benefit" and "success" mean in the context of
> an Open Source business. What is a healthy growth rate, and what
> indicators do we use to measure it?
> I won't go more into this, as this email is getting bigger than the
> small paragraph I had in mind when I started writing. I'll close with
> some links to related content:
> The economics of software
> by Bryan Cantrill (CTO of Joyent)
> http://dtrace.org/blogs/bmc/2004/08/28/the-economics-of-software/
> http://dtrace.org/blogs/bmc/2004/12/16/the-economics-of-software-redux/
> Sustain (un)conference - an event about the sustainability of open
> source projects
> https://sustainoss.org/about/
> https://github.com/sustainers
> The community-compact - a social contract for open-source businesses
> and communities
> by Adam Jacob (CTO of Chef)
> https://medium.com/@adamhjk/introducing-the-community-compact-431c61ab978f
> https://github.com/adamhjk/community-compact
> Sustainable Free and Open Source Communities (SFOSC) - a project and
> book (in the making) about building healthy, sustainable open source
> communities and businesses - guiding principles, business model
> definitions and social contracts (like the community-compact above.)
> https://medium.com/sustainable-free-and-open-source-communities/we-need-sustainable-free-and-open-source-communities-edf92723d619
> https://sfosc.org
> https://github.com/sfosc
> Finally, some notes on the recent discussions on some open-source
> projects re-licensing as a way to make money (see Redis, MongoDB,
> CockroachDB, etc):
> The tragedy of the commons clause
> https://redmonk.com/sogrady/2018/09/10/tragedy-of-the-commons-clause/
> Open source confronts its midlife crisis
> http://dtrace.org/blogs/bmc/2018/12/14/open-source-confronts-its-midlife-crisis/
> A EULA in FOSS clothing?
> http://dtrace.org/blogs/bmc/2018/12/16/a-eula-in-foss-clothing/
> Cheers,
> -- 
> Ivan c00kiemon5ter Kanakarakis  >:3

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