The 120 Seconds Open Source Pitch

I often have to “sell open source” and the pitch for this is ever changing. Here is the current one; it stands at 120 seconds. It is aimed at the German Mittelstand, but it should work for any product vendor where software is just one component of several.


“Software is eating the world” says a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. This is not just American hyberbole. Not only is software its own industry with its own products, it is also taking over the world of physical and other products.

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How to Capture Open Source User Consortia 4/4

tl;dr: Foundations need a new kind of incubator to capture budding user consortia.

An open source user consortium is a consortium of companies who sponsor, steer, and possibly also develop open source software for their own use rather than as part of software products they sell. As explained previously, this phenomenon may not be widely understood yet, but the opportunity is large. The user consortia and their members stand to benefit, and so do those existing open source foundations that are able to capture this thrust and prevent the creation of separate consortia but rather manage to integrate these interests with their own governance structure.

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The Scope of the Opportunity 3/4

tl;dr: The scope of the opportunity at hand is large, much larger than today’s impact of open source.

The software industry is large; all other industries together that need software are larger. Much larger.

Today’s open source software is mostly serving the needs of software vendors. When you look at the projects guided by the ASF, the EF, or the LF, you’ll see a lot of infrastructure, technology, and utility components for the software industry. There are not a lot of components for application domains, be it banking, energy, logistics, or agriculture.

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Does the Incorporation Type Matter to Open Source Foundations? 2/4

tl;dr: It doesn’t really matter how a foundation incorporates; what matters is the actual governance.

A typical response to the creation of new open source foundations is to decry them as “vanity foundations”. In a few instances, that may be true, but I think as a generalization it is not correct.

Usually, companies think first before spending significant money on something, in particular if it is of high visibility and might turn into an embarrassement. This doesn’t mean they always fully understand what they are doing. In fact, I believe that the understanding of companies of what open source means to them and how they want to support and steer its development is ever evolving. After a learning period these “vanity foundations” might just end up with a project and governance structure like the ASF’s.

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The Apache Software Foundation (@TheASF) is Missing Out 1/4

tl;dr: The ASF is not serving the needs of companies from outside the software industry well.

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is the original gold standard of open source foundations. Yet its project and governance model takes a one-size-fits-all approach that is holding beginners to such high standards that they may never get started with the ASF. Because of my high regard for the ASF, it is utterly frustrating to me that the ASF is missing out on major developments in the open source space. Hence this thread.

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Is Exploratory Data Analysis Bad?

Last weekend, I ventured into unchartered territory (for me) and attended the Berliner Methodentreffen, a research conference mostly frequented by social scientists. I participated in a workshop on mixed methods, where the presenter discussed different models of mixing methods with each other (“Methodenpluralität” in German).

She omitted one model that I thought is often used: First to perform exploratory data analysis to detect some interesting phenomenon and then to do some explanatory qualitative research to formulate hypotheses as to why this phenomenon is, was, or keeps happening.

During my question, the temperature in the room dropped noticeably and I was informed that such exploratory data analysis is unscientific and frowned upon. Confused I inquired some more why this is so, but did not get a clear answer.

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We May not Know What We are Doing…

From my excursion into qualitative research land (the aforementioned Berliner Methodentreffen) I took away some rather confusing impressions about the variety of what people consider science. I’m well aware of different philosophies of science (from positivism to radical constructivism) and their impact on research methodology (from controlled experiments to action research, ethnographies, etc.) I did not expect, however, for people to be so divided about fundamental assumptions about what constitutes good science.

One of the initial surprises for me was to learn that it is acceptable for a dissertation to apply only one method and for that method to only deliver descriptive results (and thereby not really make a contribution to theory). In computer science, it is difficult to publish solely theory development research (let alone purely descriptive results) without any theory validation attempt, even if only selective. The limits of what can be done in 3-5 Ph.D. student years are clear, but this shouldn’t lead anyone to lower expectations.

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On the Importance of an Open Standard Exchange Format for QDA Projects

I just returned from the Berliner Methodentreffen. One of the initiatives that was most interesting to me is a new attempt at agreeing on and standardizing an open exchange format for qualitative data analysis projects between the different QDA tools. As of today, it is not possible to take your data from one vendor’s tool to another; you are locked-in to one product. The Rotterdam Exchange Format Initiative (REFI) is trying to change that using the budding QDA-XML format.

There are three common reasons for why such an exchange format (and hence the initiative) is important.

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The Meaning of Digitalization 1/2

My engineering colleagues are sometimes sarcastic about the (many) on-going “digitalization” initiatives: “Didn’t we do this 20-30 years ago, when we switched from analog to digital?” I guess, they are talking about digitization, not digitalization.

Different from digitization, today’s digitalization initiatives are about giving software an equal seat at the table, in the line of business, whatever the application domain. In the past, for many products, software was a cost center, today it is (at least should be) a profit center, because many interesting new products can only be thought of and realized with software as a key part of the innovation process.

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