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Innovation

Open source needs two strong arms

A business arm also brings enormous benefits to customers, making selection of an open source project by even the largest enterprise into a rational business decision.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

It takes two strong arms to make an open source project a success.

It takes a community arm and a business arm.

(The picture is from Lemonade, an Australian creative agency specializing in branding, design, and online work.)

To call the latter a "boil-in-the-bag" business model, as Ashlee Vance of The New York Times did this morning, is lazy ignorance

Lucene will benefit enormously from the creation of Lucid Imagination, its new business arm. Paying customers bring jobs to the community, and important questions on usability and installation that programmers don't put top-of-mind.

A business arm also brings enormous benefits to customers, making selection of an open source project by even the largest enterprise into a rational business decision.

The creation of a business model can also be a game changer. Vance casually glances past one such example, Acquia.

Before the business arm of Drupal was formed, the community management package was falling behind rival Wordpress in popularity and buzz. Matt Mullenweg was the industry cover boy, Dries Buytaert was just another Belgian 20-something.

Now Drupal is running the White House Web site and, while Automattic is a viable business drawn off Wordpress, most now consider the software a blogging tool. One look at Automattic's home page tells you why -- its efforts are scattershot, while Acquia is focused. (Full disclosure. ZDNet runs Wordpress.)

So the creation of an open source commercial arm is not like tossing a bag of peas and carrots into boiling water for dinner (has The Times heard of these things called microwaves yet), but a significant event that helps developers, helps customers and can point the software in a new direction.

I suspect the phrase "boil-in-a-bag business model" is meant to imply that there is something lazy or cookie-cutter about getting a commercial arm launched for an open source project. What's lazy is the media assumption that there is a contradiction between open source and making money.

Put that in your microwave and nuke it. (Getting my mad on over The New York Times is a good way to start a new year. Thanks to Ashlee Vance for the annoyance.)

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