Supporting the long tail of open source

Summary:Few good developers have patience for stupid people with questions.

Roberto Galoppini
Most enterprises, and most individuals, use a small number of open source projects.

LAMP stacks are big. CRM and ERP systems, based on databases, are also big. Applications like Firefox, Open Office and The Gimp are very, very big.

But there are many, many smaller projects, with specialty capabilities used by only a few. How do you get support on them?

The simple answer is to contact the developer and offer to write a check. But the skills of a good developer and a good support person are different. Few good developers have patience for stupid people with questions.

Roberto Galoppini and I chatted about this yesterday. I smelled an opportunity. He expressed reservations.

The context of this was an OSCON meeting which Roberto attended where the Open Solutions Alliance indicated that most open source customers use at least one product from this "open source long tail."

Dominic Sartoro called this the "open source mediation conundrum" and it bears watching. Because, as Roberto notes, software has to work together or the whole system crashes. It's not like books or music where long tail products just need shelf space.

Proprietary companies have a simple solution to this problem. They limit their product lines. Open source does not have that luxury.

So how do we support the long tail of open source?

Topics: Open Source


Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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