It has become a common sight. A market develops. A leader emerges. Then the laggards say "we're open source." It's beginning to look like the throwing of a bad poker hand.
It doesn't have to be. An open source community can be a key asset.
Michael Valverde of Chain Reaction Ecommerce seemed full of apologies when I talked to him today, concerned that his company's support of its open source community has been sub-optimal, and promising to do better.
This was good to hear, because an open source project that turns out to be a code dump burns its users, who may sour on the whole open source experience.
You have to invest in open source to succeed, just as you would in a proprietary business.
As Dennis Howlett notes at Irregular Enterprise, it's a struggle to build a business model supporting both innovation and code maintenance. It's a balancing test, between priorities and publics, which is how executives like Matt Asay earn their pay.
The nickname I've given him here, Big Money Matt, is meant with affection and admiration for the work he does. The very best open source managers more than earn their pay.
If you're serious about building an open source business and not just dumping code you need someone like this on board before you send out your first press release.
Have you ever been burned by an open source project which turned out to be just a code dump?