Definition of Disruptive Technology

A technology is disruptive, if it allows new companies to shake up an established market and win against established large companies.

I got asked three times this week what “disruptive” means so here is my definition 🙂

Why Open Source is Good for German Software Businesses

I’m on the expert advisory committee of one of the German parties for the current “Internet Enquette”, a commission tasked by the German parliament with suggesting future directions for Germany’s stance toward the Internet and everything digital. At a meeting this evening, a lobbyist confided in me: “Open source is bad for German software vendors!” I gasped. He couldn’t be further from the truth. If this was mechanical engineering or electrical engineering, he’d be right. ME? EE? Germany is top. Software? Not so. Beyond a few selected highlights, Germany is an also-ran internationally. When it comes to software product businesses, German companies would benefit significantly if the dice would be rolled again. Anything that upsets the current order can only be an improvement over the current state of affairs. Open source does just that. More power to open source business models!

Cloud Computing is not a Business Model

I’m at the Dagstuhl Seminar “Information Management in the Cloud” where I keynoted about cloud computing businesses models. Given that I’m hardly a cloud computing expert this may seem like a stretch, however, the organizers had asked me to talk about my open source experience and relate this to cloud computing. This perspective turned out to be surprisingly fruitful. By realizing that both open source and cloud computing are disruptive innovations that enable a new generation of business models, I believe I was able to draw reasonable conclusions on the future of cloud computing from the history of open source. I reason by analogy, and here are the main conclusions:

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On the Open Cloud Principles: Every Real-World Specification is an Underspecification

Trying to wrap my head around the Open Cloud Principles put out by the revamp of the Open Cloud Initiative, I’m happy to note that software engineering research has something to say to the challenges these principles will face.

Every real-world specification is an underspecification.

So, well, I say that, but I doubt that I’m the first one to have learned this from 30+ years of software engineering research. This principle leads us directly to the challenges anyone is facing who is trying to be truthful to the intentions behind the Open Cloud Principles.

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The Open Source Innovation and Commoditization Frontier

Following up on Matt Aslett’s excellent post about the growth of permissive licenses and a short discussion about it on my research group’s blog, I wanted to suggest here a thought about the ratio of new vendor-owned vs. community-owned open source projects. I’m ignoring existing projects because of their path dependence (read: only today do we know what we are doing). My point is being illustrated by the following figure that I occasionally use:

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The Parser that Cracked the MediaWiki Code

I am happy to announce that we finally open sourced the Sweble Wikitext parser. You can find the announcement on the OSR Group blog or directly on the Sweble project site. This is the work of Hannes Dohrn, my first Ph.D. student, who I hired in 2009 to implement a Wikitext parser.

So what about this “cracking the MediaWiki code”?

Wikipedia aims to bring the (encyclopedic) knowledge of the world to all of us, for free. While already ten years old, the Wikipedia community is just getting started, and we have barely seen the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more to come. All that wonderful content is being written by volunteers using a (seemingly) simple language called Wikitext (the stuff you type in once you click on edit). Until today, Wikitext had been poorly defined.

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Curating, Preserving, and Showing Software at the Computer History Museum

Last Saturday I visited the Computer History Museum’s new exhibition “R|Evolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing”. The exhibition is fantastic, and they’ve come a long way from the early days of their “visible storage” exhibition. If you live in or visit the Silicon Valley, I highly recommend you pay it a visit.

That said, every time I visit the museum, I ask about the state of curating, preserving, and showing not only hardware, but also software. Like most exhibitions, the R|Evolution exhibition focusses on physical objects and complements them with textual explanations on plates as well as videos. Software is being discussed in the Software Theatre and in some smaller videos. However, these videos are about software and programming in general, not about actual software artifacts. Software is mostly shown through physical objects, i.e. the boxes they came in as packaged software.

Packaged Software Box Arc

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Honoring Peter Naur on the Community Wall at the Computer History Museum

Last Saturday I visited the “R|Evolution” exhibition at Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum (more on that later). One reason why I went there was to see the “community wall” of plaques sponsored by small-time donors. I had sponsored one and my saying on it was:

In honor of Peter Naur: To program is to learn.

I’m sure Peter Naur is being honored by the CHM elsewhere and in a more appropriate style than my whimsical plaque, but I wanted to use this blog post to explain the plaque and the meaning of the saying on it.

Like every non-profit, the CHM is always looking for support and donations, and so they had called for financial support in late 2009 and promised a plaque on a community wall as a way of saying thanks for the support.

Community wall (of small-time donors) at the CHM, Feb 2011

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MediaWiki and Commercial Open Source Innovation

You may be surprised to hear that the dominant public Internet wiki engine, MediaWiki, only plays a minor role in the enterprise. Within the corporate firewalls, TWiki, Confluence, DokuWiki, TikiWiki, and others are running the show. Why is that? It is certainly not the lack of commercial customer interest in MediaWiki, which everyone already knows as the software running Wikipedia. It is also not an anti-commercial stance by the creators of MediaWiki (and its effective owner, the Wikimedia Foundation).

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The Intellectual Property Rights Imperative of Single-Vendor Open Source

I guess everybody knows it but nobody ever named it, as far as I know, so I’m doing it here:

The Intellectual Property Rights Imperative of Single-Vendor Commercial Open Source
Always act in such a way that you, and only you, possess the right to provide the open source project under a license of your choice.

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