The best open source development model

Summary:Michael's point, and it's one I think Matt agrees with, is that Eclipse will draw more willing participation than any Sun project, regardless of license. The reason is the independence and credibility of Eclipse as viewed by the developer.

Dennis Quaid starring in “Yours Mine and Ours”
Our own Matt Asay recently took former Sun executive Michael Dolan to task for a piece comparing Eclipse with OpenDS, which Dolan once worked for at Sun.

(Why the picture of Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo? Patience, grasshopper.)

Dolan's point was that the purpose of a project is key to understanding it. Some projects are corporate initiatives, and others are based on a community of interests, like Eclipse.

Matt then argued about whether community or corporate projects are a better model. This is where I think he missed the plot.

Eclipse is not a community project. It's a community of interests. IBM has an interest, and so do the other corporate sponsors. The sponsors pool these interests, pool their resources, and the project runs independently.

By contrast, Sun is demanding corporate control of the projects it manages. Whether we're talking OpenSolaris, Java, or OpenDS, it's Sun which controls the horizontal and vertical, regardless of the licensing scheme used.

A true community project, one which rises organically from among a group of developers who care first about the result, is the open source ideal.

But increasingly it's not the open source reality, because programmers like to eat and (believe it or not) many like to eat well. Their work is valuable, so today most are employed. Some are even respected.

When I wrote my piece about the open source incline last year, I defined a single dimension for spurring contributions to a code base, the license.

But life has more than two dimensions, and the colloquy between Matt and Michael has opened my eyes to this.

Michael's point, and it's one I think Matt agrees with, is that Eclipse will draw more willing participation than any Sun project, regardless of license.

The reason is the independence and credibility of Eclipse as viewed by the developer. When you contribute code to Eclipse it will be judged solely on its merits. Which company it helps is irrelevant.

IBM's ambitions for that code mean nothing within the Eclipse process. IBM can push code through that process by putting resources behind it, but that means it's increasing its contribution, and that's good for everyone.

Contrast this with a corporate project, whether it's at Sun or Red Hat or a small company like Palamida. Contribute to a corporate project and the benefits accrue mainly to the sponsor, and in a limited way to you as a customer.

This has to color your willingness to make the contribution, the effort you put into it, and the nature of that effort. You're going to think "mine" and "theirs."

While at the bottom of the open source incline is that simple value of "ours." As in yours, mine and ours. That's the ideal model for open source development.

Topics: IBM, Open Source, Oracle, Software Development

About

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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