Open source era puts coders out front

We need to know that the guy in charge is close to the code, and can explain it. The big business movie this year isn't Wall Street 2, but The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg as Oliver Stone's Nixon.

Before getting to work at the Open World Forum in Paris, we naturally had to have a cocktail party.

It was held in the Paris City Hall, a grand pile and temple to the past near the Seine River. We joined the line outside waiting to be led through the metal detectors, then hiked up a grand staircase to a salon, where the mayor was on a small stage making jokes about open source meaning open bar.

Once the mingling began I happened upon the head of an open source project in the content management services (CMS) space. He complained that he had great software, but no one knew it. “We're number seven in our space at Sourceforge,” he said, but he still gets no love from the press or the masses.

The answer is simple, I said. You must become Colonel Chicken.

While he startled I explained. Back in the 1980s marketers ruled technology. The 1990s was a time for CEOs and strategists. But in our time you need someone close to the code.

Who are the names in your CMS space? Drupal? Wordpress? No, DruysDries Baytaert and Mark Mullenweg. Druys was unknown until he formed Acquia around Drupal, but he is still its public face. Same thing with Wordpress.

We need to know that the guy in charge is close to the code, and can explain it. The big business movie this year isn't Wall Street 2, but The Social Network, with Mark Zuckerberg as Oliver Stone's Nixon.

I don't know why this is. It's not as if someone put out a memo. And coders are not accustomed to being public speakers. The most famous coder in all the world, Linus Torvalds, is notoriously shy about public statements.

But it's like the restaurant business, I continued. We all want food with a name on it. Joel Robuchon. Mario Batali. Emeril. We know they're not on the grill station, or personally placing parsley on our plates, but we need the image there anyway.

Software is becoming the restaurant business. And if you can't stand that heat you need to bring someone into your kitchen who can.

This left me with a final question, which I leave with you. Is Eric Schmidt of Google no longer getting respect because we know he's not a coder? Maybe it's time Sergey or Larry took the stage.

NOTE: My plane fare and hotel costs in Paris were picked up by the Open World Forum upon my return.

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