Abstract: When companies opt to open source their software, they may choose to offer the project to an open source foundation. Donating the software to an open source foundation offers a number of advantages, such as access to the foundation’s existing tools and project management. However, in donating the software, the company relinquishes control of the software and grants other foundation members—including competitors—the same rights to the software. Using a multiple-case study research approach, this paper examines how foundations manage conflicts of interest in the open sourcing donation scenario. We find that foundations primarily use a set of well-defined mechanisms to prevent such conflicts from arising, and that the use of these mechanisms can depend on the foundation type.
Keywords: Open source foundations, sponsored open source, commercial open source, open source software, conflicts of interest
Reference: Weikert, F., Riehle, D., & Barcomb, A. (2019). Managing Commercial Conflicts of Interest in Open Source Foundations. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Software Business (ICSOB 2019). Springer Verlag, pp. 130-144.
The paper is available as a PDF file.
I’m very much interested in the governance of open source projects, in particular if these are user-led projects. With this post, I’m proposing a basic terminology to talk about the formal organizational structure underlying the governance of such open source projects.
Continue reading “A Simple Model of the Organizational Support of Open Source Projects”
The most important long-term trend, and my number #3 for the foreseeable future, is the sponsorship and management of open source software development by users, not vendors. The trend towards ubiquitous digitalization is leading users of software to take their software fate into their own hands, establishing informal communities or incorporating as non-profit user consortia to manage the development of the software they need. The Eclipse Foundation has been picking up this trend, supporting it with what they call Industry Working Groups; the Linux Foundation is also supporting this. Open source like this will not remove the need for commercial support, but it will reduce the effects of vendor lock-in, because products that are built on community open source can be switched more easily. Continue reading “My Top Three Trends for Open Source in 2019 (3/3)”
We are researching the governance of open source software foundations. We are specifically interested in what we call open source user consortia, that is, open source foundations where the users of the software are in the driver’s seat.
Continue reading “Looking for Examples of Open Source User Consortia”
An open source software user consortium is a non-profit organization (foundation, consortium, working group) created for the purpose of funding and managing the development of non-differentiating open source software made available to foundation members and the general public. Its purpose is to establish a software ecosystem in which vendors and suppliers can provide products and services on an equal playing field to the software user companies. User companies are everyone who needs software and who is not a software company.
We are currently sampling what’s out there (and there is plenty, see recent prior posts on the topic). Examples are the Kuali Foundation or the openKONSEQUENZ consortium or the OpenMDM working group. For sampling, we want to understand the differences between these organizations.
Continue reading “Classifying Open Source User Consortia”
Consulting company PTA reports about its development of open source software for the German energy software user consortium openKONSEQUENZ, which sponsors and manages the development of open source software for the energy sector. The Netzpraxis article start out with:
Auf der openKONSEQUENZ-Plattform steht seit kurzem Unternehmen der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft das Modul »Betriebstagebuch« zur Verfügung. Da es sich bei penKONSEQUENZ um eine Genossenschaft i.G. und beim Betriebstagebuch um eine Open-Source-Lösung handelt, können es Netzbetreiber und andere interessierte Unternehmen kostenlos nutzen.
Read the full article (available as PDF).
tl;dr: Existing 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.
Continue reading “How to Capture Open Source User Consortia 4/4”
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.
Continue reading “The Scope of the Opportunity 3/4”
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.
Continue reading “Does the Incorporation Type Matter to Open Source Foundations? 2/4”
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 frustrating to me that it is missing out on a major development in the open source space. Hence this thread.
Continue reading “The Apache Software Foundation (@TheASF) is Missing Out 1/4”