Connecting hobby and business in open source

Connecting hobby and business in open source

Summary: Make business feel like a hobby? Show me the fun rather than the money? Focus on pleasure rather than monetization? Heresy, you say. Maybe. But it's the only way I've ever seen an open source company get over the hump, from start-up to thriving concern.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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There remains a severe disconnect in open source between those who focus on its business aspects and those who see it as a hobby.

The best programmers, like our own Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier (right), combine the two. They make money while having fun, in fact their profits come from focusing on the fun in what they do. Google releases its update code and Joe says, in effect, let's play with it.

Our Matt Asay represents the business side. He focuses on business models, on making money, and most of his work on open source has this in mind.

Both sides need one another. You can see how much they need one another by looking at the fate of OpenX, the open source ad server.

The business model of OpenX is focused on gaining support of people who are engaging online for fun. Most bloggers are not professional writers. They're just hoping some coin will fall from the sky to fund the time they spend on their passions.

Here, players like Joe can be the glue that gives suits like Matt a shot. A system used by amateurs must be highly idiot-proof, even automatic. This takes technical chops that must be exercised before there is any money around to pay for it.

It is at this point that interest must be engineered, even cajoled out of people who care more about the work than the money.

The best open source entrepreneurs manage somehow to do this. How? I think, from watching folks like Marc Fleury do it for some time now, by focusing in on and enabling the non-economic benefits of development.

Make business feel like a hobby? Show me the fun rather than the money? Focus on pleasure rather than monetization? Heresy, you say.

Maybe. But it's the only way I've ever seen an open source company get over the hump, from start-up to thriving concern.

How do you think it's done?

Topic: Open Source

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  • How do we measure open source success?

    Good article. Getting the balance of community and corporate interests right is not easy. The rewards can be lucrative. Linux, Eclipse, and others show that a vibrant community and making money are not at odds.

    I recently wrote about measuring open source success - http://fosslc.org/drupal/node/388. What I take from this article is that there may be some combination of corporate/financial success and community success that is optimal. Is there one optimal formula that applies generally? Or is each situation different.
    aross2
    • It's more of an art than a science

      I don't think there's any set formula. Although
      I have noticed that companies which run forges
      that have lots of nifty features seem to do
      well.

      Eclipse and Apache have their own boards,
      separate from the companies sponsoring them.
      That seems to work well.

      I have long been intrigued by this subject and
      will continue to follow it.

      To everyone else. The link is to a note a the
      FOSS Learning Center, with some good follow-up
      messages, describing this issue.
      DanaBlankenhorn