Open Source in Business on Labor Economics

Dave Neary and colleagues recently started a podcast on open source in business. There are already two episodes out, the first one on product management in commercial open source, and the second one on open source and the cloud. Check them out!

Even better yet, yours truly will be on the podcast for the third episode, talking about the labor economics of open source. I first thought we’d be discussing our article on the open source software developer career. However, Dave has much more in store, so don’t miss it and register right away! It will air on September 29th, 2020, at 4pm CEST/11am EDT/8am PDT with a Europe friendly timezone! The episode is live so you can ask questions.

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Where is Open Source in Factory Automation?

An important benefit of an open source project is that it is long-lived and can’t go out of business. Unlike a closed source supplier, which can go bankrupt, your usage and update rights to an open source software can’t suddenly disappear.

From working with customers I know very well that the manufacturers of (comparatively) expensive machines like cars, trains, and planes have long warmed up to open source and appreciate that open source projects will stick around when (some) closed source suppliers are long gone or killed their products.

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What to Call Traditional Community Open Source Projects Not Hosted by a Foundation?

A week ago I asked the Twitterverse how to call community open source projects that are not hosted by a foundation. By saying community open source I excluded both commercial open source and corporately-run open source. The options were plain, plain old, traditional, and ungoverned. Ungoverned won with a small margin at 34% of the 111 votes. But this is only a part of the story.

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Why Istio Matters to Google

You may have notices the brouhaha in response to Google’s announcement to hand over trademark management of its popular Istio, Angular, and Gerrit open source projects to the newly created Open Usage Commons (OUC) non-profit. While I gave Google the benefit of the doubt, the vast majority of commentary assumed that Google only had its own interests at heart and tried to add the appearance of openness to its projects without actually delivering. Google dominates the OUC and therefore any decisions.

Here, I want to focus on why people, most notably cloud providers, care. I will ignore sensibilities (broken promises or not) and focus on the business perspective. As I wrote before, of the three projects given to the OUC, the heat is on Istio, a (micro-)services mesh software. Angular and Gerrit may be important projects in general, but don’t matter much to Google’s revenue. So, what is it about Istio?

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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.

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.

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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Open Source is Not Free (Nor is Free Software)

Later this week I’ll be on a panel at the Automotive Computing Conference in Frankfurt. The organizers sent the questions in advance, and sure enough, they were asking how open source could provide viable software components if it is free (of cost). This perhaps is the most common commercial misconception about open source.

Open source is not free. It never was.

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