When newsmen think of Markos Moulitsas, they think of him as a liberal activist, maybe a blogger.
In this they are mistaken. He is, in fact, an entrepreneur, using open source to build a content business.
In doing this he has cracked puzzles that have bedevilled business schools for years. How do you make money with open source, and how do you build an Internet content business without capital? And in the political space, no less?
Markos, whose nickname is Kos, has placed himself on this page today by announcing, through a user named Hunter, that the site will soon upgrade to Ruby on Rails. Here is the note asking for programming help.
The choice of Ruby on Rails is an interesting one. While Scoop, which Dailykos now runs on, is optimized for use as a Community Network Service, Ruby on Rails is a Web framework that needs a database and Web server to become active.
Ruby on Rails doesn't specify its database environment. It can be used with Ingres, with PostgreSQL, with mySQL, even with a proprietary database (although who would want to). Ruby itself is a programming language originally developed in Japan. It you want to meet Kos, I'm guessing he'll be at the Mountain West Ruby Conference in Salt Lake City next month.
More important is that by building on Ruby on Rails, DailyKos doesn't have to be "just" a discussion site any more. Ruby on Rails can be used for ecommerce, for file hosting, for asset management, for group chat, or for sharing audio files. No wonder Kos continues to gain market share in his niche.
What this means in practice is that DailyKos can become a sort of "AOL for Liberals," pushing into niches currently occupied by companies as diverse as CafePress and (yes, even) YouTube. It can scale into another league.
Finally consider that the company's niche, political content, is an area that has defied many, many attempts at entrepreneurship over many decades. Magazines like The New Republic and the National Review are subsidized by those who believe in them, they are not profit centers. DailyKos is a business.
And Markos Moulitsas is a businessman, a very good one.