Ten Years of Student Startups

A main reason why I became a professor is to create and guide student startups, in general, and from my research projects in particular. It has been a bumpy ride, to say the least, but I guess, every learning curve is. Data points (startups) are still not plenty, but I can nevertheless discern some learnings. Without further ado, the usual bullet list of insights:

Learning is by person. Large companies can talk about organizational memory and capabilities building all they want, in a startup, knowledge walks in the door (and out) by person. A new person basically starts over and makes all the same mistakes the person they replace also made… two years later. So, avoid losing good people.

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The Innovations of Open Source Article Republished in IEEE Computing Edge’s April 2020 Issue

IEEE’s Computing Edge magazine is a practitioner-oriented publication that republishes particularly popular content from other IEEE publications. In the April 2020 issue, they republished last year’s The Innovations of Open Source article that I wrote to open the Computer magazine’s Open Source Expanded bimonthly column.

Best of all, it is free! (Original version, local copy.)

I didn’t know about the republication until someone pointed me to it. Check it out, if you missed the article the first time around.

Single-Vendor Open Source Firms (Dirk Riehle, IEEE Computer Column)

I’m happy to report that the seventh article in the Open Source Expanded column of IEEE Computer has been published.

TitleSingle-Vendor Open Source Firms
KeywordsOpen source, single-vendor open source, commercial open source
AuthorsDirk Riehle, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg
PublicationComputer vol. 53, no. 4 (April 2020), pp. 68-72.

Abstract: This article present a particular business model for commercial open source firms, called the single-vendor open source model. This model has long dominated venture capital funding for open source software firms, contributing to the long-term sustainability of open source. As such, it is of high economic relevance. It is also an excellent example to show how open source licensing and related strategies really are just tools in the design of a business model and not philosophies.

As always, the article is freely available (local copy or HTML page).

Also, check out the full list of articles.

Managing Episodic Volunteers in Free/Libre/Open Source Software Communities (Article)

Abstract: We draw on the concept of episodic volunteering (EV) from the general volunteering literature to identify practices for managing EV in free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) communities. Infrequent but ongoing participation is widespread, but the practices that community managers are using to manage EV, and their concerns about EV, have not been previously documented. We conducted a policy Delphi study involving 24 FLOSS community managers from 22 different communities. Our panel identified 16 concerns related to managing EV in FLOSS, which we ranked by prevalence. We also describe 65 practices for managing EV in FLOSS. Almost three-quarters of these practices are used by at least three community managers. We report these practices using a systematic presentation that includes context, relationships between practices, and concerns that they address. These findings provide a coherent framework that can help FLOSS community managers to better manage episodic contributors.

Keywords: Best practices, community management, episodic volunteering, free software, open source software

Reference: Barcomb, A., Stol, KJ, Fitzgerald, B., & Riehle, D. (2020). Managing Episodic Volunteers in Free/Libre/Open Source Software Communities. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. To appear.

The paper can be downloaded as a PDF file.

Please Help Keep our Language Precise: Single-Vendor Open Source is Neo-Proprietary Source, not Closed Source

When the Open Source Initiative defined open source, it focused only on the license, and ignored the process. Smart entrepreneurs quickly discovered that they could provide to the world their product as open source code and benefit from it, while strictly controllling the process to keep competition at bay. This is called single-vendor open source.

Single-vendor open source is not closed source, not even “the new” closed source. The following 2×2 matrix illustrates the distinction between license and process:

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The Ecosystem of openKONSEQUENZ, a User-Led Open Source Foundation (OSS 2020 Paper)

Companies without expertise in software development can opt to form consortia to develop open source software to meet their needs, as an alternative to the build-or-buy decision. Such user-led foundations are little understood, due to a limited number of published examples. In particular, almost nothing is known about the ecosystems surrounding user-led foundations. Our work seeks to address this gap, through an exploratory qualitative survey of openKONSEQUENZ, from the German energy sector. We find that the technological goals are quite homogeneous, independent of a participant’s role in the ecosystem, but that economic conflicts exist between foundation members and supplier companies due to the consortium’s efforts to transform the software market structure to limit dependency on specific vendors.

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Sorting out the Ethical Licensing Mess

Software developers who give the world, for free, usage rights to the code they write often use open source licenses to make this gift legally explicit. These free usage rights (and then some) are encoded in all valid open source licenses, next to the obligations one has to fulfill to receive the rights grant. Recently, the desire of some developers has surged to tie their gift to causes they care about. Some want to protect Chinese workers from abusive working hours, some want to stop companies from working with US immigrations, and some want to ensure that users vaccinate their children and themselves according to current medical best practice.

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