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Drew Devault drewdevault.com

I’m going to work full-time on free software

A year ago Drew Devault laid out his future plans and path to sustainably working on open source full-time. Today, those plans have been realized. I don’t want to make grandiose promises right away, but I’m confident that increasing my commitment to open source to this degree is going to have a major impact on my projects. For now, my primary focus is sr.ht: its paid users make up the majority of the funding. Drew goes on to say how he’s making this leap before the needed income is actually there, so if you dig what he’s up to, you can play a part in making his choice a success. I need to clarify that despite choosing to work full-time on these projects, my income is going to be negative for a while. I have enough savings and income now that I feel comfortable making the leap, and I plan on working my ass off before my runway ends to earn the additional subscriptions to sr.ht and donations to fosspay et al that will make this decision sustainable in the long term.

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Ben Thompson stratechery.com

The economic realities of open source

Ben Thompson, one of the voices behind Exponent and writer at Stratechery, covered the economic realities of open source from a lens of the music industry. More specifically, Ben talked about how the music industry’s revenue, medium, and distribution relates to that of open source in today’s world where AWS, Microsoft or Google are able to make money off of open source like MongoDB and Redis without having to share any of that money with the developers of the open source. He describes this conundrum for open source companies: MongoDB leveraged open source to gain mindshare. MongoDB Inc. built a successful company selling additional tools for enterprises to run MongoDB. More and more enterprises don’t want to run their own software: they want to hire AWS (or Microsoft or Google) to run it for them, because they value performance, scalability, and availability. This leaves MongoDB Inc. not unlike the record companies after the advent of downloads: what they sold was not software but rather the tools that made that software usable, but those tools are increasingly obsolete as computing moves to the cloud.

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Paul Graham paulgraham.com

What business can learn from open source

Sometimes you need to look back in order to go forward. In this 2005 Paul Graham essay derived from his talk at OSCON that same year, Paul contrasts open source and blogging to extract wisdom for companies to follow. What’s more interesting is just how right this essay was, with the luxury of hindsight and history on our side today. …the biggest thing business has to learn from open source is not about Linux or Firefox, but about the forces that produced them. Ultimately these will affect a lot more than what software you use. Like open source, blogging is something people do themselves, for free, because they enjoy it. … People just produce whatever they want; the good stuff spreads, and the bad gets ignored. And in both cases, feedback from the audience improves the best work. In a world where the playing field is leveled and everyone has the same or similar access to share their ideas, ideas will “bubble up from the bottom, instead of flowing down from the top.” Well said Paul.

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Nadia Eghbal nadiaeghbal.com

User support systems in open source

As with any research Nadia Eghbal shares, this is a deep dive into understanding the user support systems present in today’s open source. It’s very detailed, highly researched, and more importantly it’s actionable. Here’s a sample of Nadia’s closing remarks: I barely scratched the surface on user support systems: there’s a gold mine of data waiting to be played with. I’d love to see more research on how support communities form and maintain themselves (particularly Stack Overflow, mailing lists, forums, and synchronous chat). Why do some have only one or two answerers, while others have many? Does the growth of these communities mirror that of the code contributor community? Implicitly, a deeper understanding of support communities would help validate the growth model and hub-and-spokes model presented above.

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