Open source changes journalism's rules

Once you tell anybody in the open source world about anything, you’ve told everybody everything.

Ofer ShoshanI had a nice talk last week with CEO Ofer Shoshan of Qlusters Inc.  in Palo Alto, Calif.. He wanted to talk about their OpenQRM project, a data management system now offered under the Mozilla Public license. "It’s easy to take what you have in the data center – either open source or proprietary – and integrate it into one management console," he said.

Like I said, I talked with Shoshan a week ago. I only mention it now because the interview was under an embargo until today.

Then on Saturday I got a note from Qlusters’ PR agency. "Two news sources  have broken the openQRM project news that you are holding," the note said. "Feel free to post your story now."

Qlusters logoThat may be a better open source story.

Business news is often treated as a proprietary good, something the holder can control, favoring one outlet with an "exclusive CEO interview," waiting until they post before a disfavored competitor gets a sniff of the release. Many companies use this to control how their story plays. You give the Wall Street Journal first crack at it, then release when they do. Or you give someone else the break for a cover, or favorable treatment.

In the case of Qlusters, however, the company actually released openQRM through Sourceforge  weeks ago. The project was already riding high in the site’s Enterprise listings when I was asked to keep silent. Yet the company's PR people didn't see this validation as the story -- they saw features and spin as the story. They also thought they could keep the press quiet with interviews while testing the actual software before thousands of programmers.

They couldn’t.

In the world of the Internet every consumer can also be a producer. Every programmer can be a journalist. You can’t segment the readers from the writers, the select from the unwashed anymore.

The chief value news "outlets" add in an open source world is understanding, perspective, and decent writing. Once you tell anybody in the open source world about anything, you’ve told everybody everything.