|By Stephen Walli||
|March 18, 2013 09:45 AM EDT||
Concerns are raised every once in a while in the broader free and open source software community about freeloaders. The attitude expressed is that if you're getting the benefit of FOSS, you should contribute. Building a business on a FOSS project you don't own, whether you're providing a service or product around a FOSS project should in return garner some sort of quid pro quo. In reality, freeloaders are desirable.
I think we need to look through the other end of the telescope. The people most often concerned about freeloaders and the free ride are actually the ones with the motivation problem - they expect free work (or "free" customers). I recently wrote about "Making Open Source." One of the first things required is a motivation to share. One of the next requirements is an ability to collaborate. I believe the people most likely to express concerns about freeloaders seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of sharing their work.
You almost never see this concern expressed by a company that is participating in a community it doesn't own. They are obviously happy to be contributing and getting more than they give. They are themselves by definition not freeloaders, and clearly the community is evolved enough that they're probably not the only outside contributing company. Likewise, project founders and committers seem to be happy to see others using their work. All these folks already understand the dynamic. One tends to find the freeloader concern expressed by companies that "own" the open source project.
In a former life as a consultant, I saw companies that own projects raise concerns about contribution and about "giving away their software for free." This is really another way of saying, "we didn't receive the expected contributions in kind." Worse, there would be discussion about users that didn't convert into customers because this would be the only forgivable reason not to contribute. The thinking was, "somebody needs to pay."
Such companies confused customers testing the solution in the user community with genuine community users that aren't convertible leads. The company couldn't initially fathom that developing a community of users around a technology project would:
- Create the knowledge, expertise and experience necessary to provide a complete solution for the technology pitch to the customer. These proof points are invaluable when actual potential customers are self-qualifying themselves in the community and testing the strength of a solution's community.
- Create advocates and evangelists to spread awareness about a solution.
- Create enormous inertia in the status quo around a technology they own or provide the dominant expertise around.
- Anchor customers both in an engaged relationship as well as from a technology perspective.
- Ultimately lead to contributions if they encourage and prepare for them. (N.B. This is still not a conversion to a paying customer.)
I have even seen a variation on the freeloader phenomenon in relation to the Google Summer of Code: projects that haven't participated before mistakenly want to get free labour for the summer. The Summer of Code is explicitly designed to enable computer science students to learn about open source software, to gain experience in real-world distributed software development work, and to hone their programming skills. It's about the students - not the labour. As the tagline says, "flip bits not burgers." The FOSS project itself certainly benefits with exposure, training their own project members as mentors, and if the project mentors do a good job, they gain committed new blood. But it's not about "getting free work."
It's really about the math of the situation. A number of people have observed over the years that contributions flowing into a FOSS project hold a particular pattern. For every thousand bug reports, a hundred developers will propose a solution in code. Ten will actually read the submission guidelines and fix the entire bug. One will provide a righteous fix and the contributor will have run the test harness provided, and their submission will include new test cases to prove it has been solved. This works for communities with large user bases like MySQL and sendmail right down to very specialized communities around such things as graphics drivers.
These observations set the tone for how to think about the vector, because to get a thousand bug reports, you probably need ten thousand users in your community. If the observations are accurate, 90% of every FOSS community must be users that don't contribute so much as a single bug report, i.e. they're freeloaders.
So, it is really about the project motivation. Developing good software is hard work and liberally sharing the software under FOSS licenses and building a community is the best way to spread the economic costs of development and gain inbound domain expertise. Furthermore, if you're a company that owns the actual IP for the software project, you gain the additional benefits (defined above) around developing an engaged community.
Contribution is the lifeblood of the FOSS project, so it needs to be easy to install/configure and use the software to build a broad community of users. It needs to be easy for users to understand how and what to contribute to improve the odds of contribution. If code is the inbound contribution, it needs to be easy for users to become code contributors. Such people need to know what to do, how to get started, and how to contribute. All of these activities are the project's responsibility. From the contribution flow, a project will find its future committers and maintainers to renew the core development community.
As a project community grows and thrives it will attract businesses that want to use the software and contribute. If the project developers meet the commercial needs for legal risk management, then an ecosystem can thrive around the FOSS project. This adds even more users to the community as companies participate, pulling the project software into new places.
So in the end, it's all about freeloaders, but from the perspective that you want as many as possible. That means you're "doing it right" in developing a broad base of users by making their experience easy, making it easy for them to contribute, and ultimately to create an ecosystem that continues to sustain itself. Freeloaders are essential to the growth and success of every FOSS project.
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Dec. 9, 2016 12:45 AM EST Reads: 1,197
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2017 New York. The 20th Cloud Expo and 7th @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Internet to enable us all to im...
Dec. 9, 2016 12:30 AM EST Reads: 876
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Dec. 9, 2016 12:00 AM EST Reads: 687
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 8, 2016 09:45 PM EST Reads: 1,237
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
Dec. 8, 2016 09:15 PM EST Reads: 961
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
Dec. 8, 2016 07:45 PM EST Reads: 333
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
Dec. 8, 2016 07:15 PM EST Reads: 392
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
Dec. 8, 2016 05:45 PM EST Reads: 1,726
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
Dec. 8, 2016 05:00 PM EST Reads: 1,822
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
Dec. 8, 2016 04:45 PM EST Reads: 2,256
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Dec. 8, 2016 04:45 PM EST Reads: 1,851
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Dec. 8, 2016 04:15 PM EST Reads: 2,322
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Dec. 8, 2016 03:30 PM EST Reads: 1,247
Unsecured IoT devices were used to launch crippling DDOS attacks in October 2016, targeting services such as Twitter, Spotify, and GitHub. Subsequent testimony to Congress about potential attacks on office buildings, schools, and hospitals raised the possibility for the IoT to harm and even kill people. What should be done? Does the government need to intervene? This panel at @ThingExpo New York brings together leading IoT and security experts to discuss this very serious topic.
Dec. 8, 2016 03:00 PM EST Reads: 536
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
Dec. 8, 2016 02:30 PM EST Reads: 947
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 8, 2016 02:15 PM EST Reads: 1,199
"ReadyTalk is an audio and web video conferencing provider. We've really come to embrace WebRTC as the platform for our future of technology," explained Dan Cunningham, CTO of ReadyTalk, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at WebRTC Summit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 8, 2016 01:45 PM EST Reads: 800
"At ROHA we develop an app called Catcha. It was developed after we spent a year meeting with, talking to, interacting with senior citizens watching them use their smartphones and talking to them about how they use their smartphones so we could get to know their smartphone behavior," explained Dave Woods, Chief Innovation Officer at ROHA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 8, 2016 01:45 PM EST Reads: 782
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
Dec. 8, 2016 12:45 PM EST Reads: 1,756
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation; Alan Williamson, Principal...
Dec. 8, 2016 12:00 PM EST Reads: 544