Why companies don’t always freeride on open source projects

I presented on open source foundations earlier this week to economist friends at TU Munich. I naturally got the question about freeriding: Why does anyone contribute to open source projects, if they could do something else with their time? The cinch: This time we are talking about companies, not invididual people, so the arguments about altruism and signaling don’t apply. So, why do companies contribute and don’t just freeride? I don’t think this question has been answered well yet in economics, and I’m not sure established theory has a ready answer.

To make it short: I believe the most direct reason why companies contribute to open source projects is to lower their cost of consumption of that very project. Specifically, contributing to a project builds competence in that project, and employing committers builds additional foresight and influence. General compentence makes the company use the software more effectively, avoiding costly bugs and rework. Foresight and influence helps the company avoid misalignment of their products with the evolving open source software they depend on. Such misalignment can also lead to costly rework and missed market opportunities.

I’m not aware of any RoI model that helps an engineering manager determine how much to contribute to achieve how much lower consumption costs and risks. Because of the step function from contributor to committer status for the involved employees, the investment return is not a linear function, that much we can say. The rest remains imperfect science for now.

Continue reading “Why companies don’t always freeride on open source projects”

Tech troubles of @Seagate Backup Plus Slim

About two years back, I bought a Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2 TB external 2.5 inch harddrive. I love it! So much so, that I tried buying a second one a couple of months ago. From the get go, that second copy behaved weirdly, The disk was slow and seemed to operate in intermittent sprints only. I finally got out a benchmarking tool and the the tests bore out that something was wrong, when compared with my original (older) copy. The original one is displayed to the left, the new one to the right.

Continue reading “Tech troubles of @Seagate Backup Plus Slim”

Costs of no or poor open source governance

When talking with companies about the use of open source, sooner or later we end up discussing the problem of license compliance. This is perhaps the most prominent aspect of open source governance for companies getting started with using open source. It can be surprisingly difficult to coherently explain the cause and effect chains that create the potentially high costs of not properly governing your open source engagement!

So here then is my take at teasing it apart.

Continue reading “Costs of no or poor open source governance”

Open data is moving, slowly but surely

I’ve been participating in various workshops and working groups on open data now. It is hard scrabble, but things are moving. Today I participated in a workshop of the open data task force of Bitkom which I am a member of. The highlight of the day was the participation of Saskia Esken who explained some and handled questions and answers on the new open data for government law that is coming up in Germany.

In related news, the task force finished its open data manifest, a collection of quality attributes of what good open data are and what to ask of providers and the government. A small handbook is in work as well.

Entrepreneurship Panel at IT-Gipfel Göttingen #itgipfelgoe

A few days ago, I participated in a panel on entrepreneurship in the beautiful but small city of Göttingen, Germany. While a university town, it isn’t exactly the Silicon Valley either, much like my current home town of Erlangen.

Thus, on the panel, I ran into the usual German morals on what makes a good entrepreneur, respectively, how to treat one:

Continue reading “Entrepreneurship Panel at IT-Gipfel Göttingen #itgipfelgoe”

Impressions from Installing and Configuring Devolo Home Automation Control Center

As a first step, I had installed remote controlled (Z-Wave) thermostats for my radiators. In addition, I installed Devolo’s Control Center and registered on its website for access to the control center. I had thought, from a prior email exchange with Devolo’s support, that it would not be necessary to use their web service. However, I was not able to identify (or find documentation) about a web server or some other management UI on the control center, so I decided to go through their website. I resent this, as I didn’t necessarily want them to have data on my home configuration, but it was the fastest way to a working set-up.

The first step was still a hardware installation step. I needed to plug-in the control center box and connect it to the Internet. My current solution below utilizes a Fritz! product, Ethernet over power-line. The Devolo Control Center comes with its own built-in Ethernet over power-line support and is supposed to be plug compatible with the Fritz solution, alas, this did not work out of the box. It is the one remaining problem to solve for me, later.

Continue reading “Impressions from Installing and Configuring Devolo Home Automation Control Center”

Unwrapping and Experiences with Installing Devolo Home Automation Thermostats

As my first (rather small) home automation project I decided to install remote controlled radiator thermostats. (This is also known as a central thermostat and comes with most modern apartments, but then my new Berlin apartment is rather old and charming. It has no central thermostat, making me run around the apartment every morning to manually adjust the seven radiators.)

I chose Devolo’s “Home Control” thermostats and control center. This is an affordable entry-level product into the space of home automation, though the total of seven thermostats and one (proprietary) control center set me back about EUR 600.

Continue reading “Unwrapping and Experiences with Installing Devolo Home Automation Thermostats”