Fog Creek Software
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Open Source version of City Desk?

I want to ask a theoretical question using a concrete example. I am looking for opinions and ideas, not trolling. Enlightened discussion is welcome.
In Adam Fisk’s post http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=4951&ixReplies=29 Adam said Joel did not think much of Open Source. From Joel’s own comments http://www.softwaremarketsolution.com/ I get the same feeling. Joel is not a big open source supporter.
So, let us say that somewhere there is a grad student, an Open Source believer, who is hacking away on his own equivalent to City Desk. If we assume this person is very bright, and they do a good job, their Open Source alternative could be very comparable to the basic version of City Desk. Maybe some things are better, some are worse, but all in all very comparable functionality, GUI, ease of use.
For this discussion lets assume there is no intellectual property problem. There work is original, and there is no sue them out of existence option.
Our young developer releases this product for Linux and announces that in 6 months there will be a Windows port.
How does a company faced with Open Source (free as in beer) competition react?
What do you do to keep your market share?
Is FUD your only option? Marketing and advertising?

Doug Withau
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

you say you ain't trolling but you use terms like "FUD" which are to say the least, emotive. Ok.

Well you compete the same way you compete in most markets, by being better. In my experience, people don't mind paying for quality, and if your product lacks quality people will look for an alternative, regardless of whether there is an obvious open source alternative or obvious pay alternative or not.

robert moir
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Let's assume the opensource programmer is completely rational and persistent.

Oftentimes, companies talk about getting "lock-in."  Even Joel has an article on this.  It's sort of like the Two Eyes in Go, where there is a self-maintaining force that keeps your customers going to you.

Unfortunately, Joel does not have a whole hell a lot of it.  While Citydesk is probably doing well, he's getting a lot more income from new users than from churning money out of users with upgrades.  And since he doesn't have different copies communicate with each other like Winer would have wanted (to plot about subjugating humanity?), there's no lock-in from users needing a proprietary lingua franca.

Still, I wouldn't consider it a deadly threat.  For one thing, Fogcreek has a tendency towards diversity.  There's the sense that Citydesk just happens to be their most recent product, than being the defining work of the company.

Also, such called shots to take out a particular company are rare.  There are all sorts of boogeymen, and occasionally they appear (as Knuth did with TeX, putting many commercial typesetting developers out of business), but statistically that's rarer than management incompetence.

Stallman actually did something similar against Symbolics for a few years.  With enormous productivity, he wrote software to punish a single company and help its competitors.  While costing them millions, he eventually stopped because there was a larger war, and Symbolics died for other reasons.

I don't think this is a serious threat.  Joel has very good PR (the proof of this being I'm not referring to 'Fogcreek') and it'll probably make good fodder for another article.

Richard Jenkins
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

There's no such thing as free beer.

a) There are already similar products out there that are open source.

b) The open source product would have to gain market share like any other.

c) I'd say this grad student would be better served by choosing a niche that doesn't already have a product.

d) I don't know how much work was put into CityDesk, but I imagine an equivelant amount of work would have to be put into an open source alternative.

If despite the above, such an open source product comes into existance, I don't know that the larger company would have to worry that much about losing market share. Look at eGrail v. Interwoven, or Linux v. Microsoft.

I know these are very touchy subjects for most people but if you looked at the user-install base, I don't think you'd have all that much to worry about.

My (large) company just announced they're going with .Net. All our desktops are still Windows, and we all have MS Office. It doesn't look like that's about to change.

There was an earlier announcement about potentially using Linux for non-critical systems, which would probably run on Solaris. Sun, meanwhile, announced that they'd start selling Linux servers. Sun adapted.

Really it comes down to management. Are you going to be a Microsoft or are you going to be an Atari?

I guess another variable is how quickly the non-open source version can make a name for itself so that it's seen to be a superior and stable brand. You could make an open source clothing store, but you'd have a hard time toppling the Gap. Also, the Gap has a serious marketing and sales force that an open source project could never get (Yeah, I know about evangelism). The Gap has also, in addition to amazing brand recognition, a serious supply chain, deals with every mall in America, economies of scale, which seems less important in software, and about a million other things going for it.

Also, look at the trajectory of open source products. The strong ones with a core team behind them do well - Linux for example. Others don't do so well - eGrail became a $$ product, Netscape, a very high profile case lost out to Micro$oft. The fact is, if a company has a strong foundation you can look at it's books, it's management, etc. and know that it'll be around for a few years. Open source on the other hand has no such metrics. You can order an annual report from Microsoft, can you get that kind of barometer for the health of an open source project? Since there's no internal momentum keeping most of them going, there's no way of knowing what will happen to them.

I'm sorry, am I spreading FUD? I thought I was spreading facts.

Mark W
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

As the two recent reviews reflect, the big selling point of Citydesk is usability.  There are plenty of other content management packages out there, but how many of them are usable?

If your open source CM is as usable, then I think you will have made a break through in open source, because usability it its biggest weakness.  As far as I can see, it tends to be written by developers for developers, and it shows.  Non technical people tend to find open source software very difficult to use.

As long as open source continues to pitch itself at the technically skilled minority, then the majority are still there for the commercial picking.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Mark you made me laugh and cry with a big company going to .net.  It's not about .net per se at all, it's about such an annoucement having any short term effect on the embedded systems.  To the wise architect it just means that the next time you actually get a chance to make an architectural decision you'll see if you can cost justify .net or at least something that's not hostile to .net.

The pop effect is  that ordinary folks and managers thinking that it's finally time to dump IMS.

tk
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

on open source.  i use a lot of open source.  i like the movement.  but the thing is-i feel that open source stuff is generally made by people who would use what they're making.  since the people are software geeks-they make stuff software geeks like.  there are plenty of open source code editors, but where's the credible open source alternative to photoshop or flash 5?  i can't imagine someone spending their fee time coding on something that they wouldn't use themselves.  many more geeks are comfortable with the command line than in the general population (myself being one) which prefers GUI oriented stuff.  that's why apache has those little text .conf files-it seems so natural for the geeks.  but it's not natural for other people.

to citydesk, that's why i wonder who would make an open-source citydesk.  citydesk's target audience is NOT geeks, and i don't know too many geeks that would use citydesk.  if a geek wants to create a website for themselves, they'd prolly just slap it together themselves and make their own CMS. 

Razib Khan
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

I don't think its necessarily true that one system (open source) or another (commercial) will CRUSH the other. Lots of open source products compete actively with commercial products.

MySQL is a very popular RDBMS. Then again, so is MS SQL. So is Oracle. So is Postgre. And on and on and on.

Mark made an excellent point when he said that open source products typically target developers or techies. I can't think of a single commercially viable open source project aimed at non-technical end users while still giving the developer an opportunity for revenue.

The trick is this: open source can't make (much) money by selling their product, so they have to make money through some other means. Generally, this means providing consulting services (MySQL) or by creating training programs and certifications (Red Hat) or by hoping that end-users will give you money out of the goodness of their hearts (LimeWire).

If your open source software is simple enough for an end user to use, then there is no need for consulting, certifications, or expensive training. And without any of these means of pulling in money, how will the project maintain momentum? How can users feel secure that there will be upgraded versions and bug fixes?

I don't forsee open source software _ever_ making more than a tiny dent in the commercial software industry. Even if you could round up a bazillion volunteer slashdotters, the economics just won't let it happen.

Benji Smith
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

...I thought I was finished posting, but I guess not...

As lots of my friends have become avid supporters of the OSS movement (and its holy grail, the GPL), I see myself heading in the opposite direction.

I think the really compelling facet of the open source movement is in the LGPL license (which is, unfortunately, looked down at because of its status as being _lesser_ than the GPL).

Let's say you're working on some cool graphics software (at your JOB, not for recreation), and you need a really neat vector rendering library. It would take a long time to write. Let's also say that there is a library out there that accomplishes about 70% of what you want to do. Luckily it uses the LGPL (lesser GNU public license, in case you haven't heard of it), so you can modify the source and use it in your commercial application.

Congratulations! You just saved yourself 40 - 60 hours of work. Now you can actually go home at 5:00 for the next two weeks.

But what about the guy that wrote the original vector graphics rendering library? Did he get screwed? Did he get taken advantage of? No. Because the only reason he had time to write his library is because he saved himself 40 hours by using somebody else's 3D geometry handling library.

Developers helping developers.

The GPL is primarily designed to benefit the end user (so that they can have free-as-in-speech-and-beer software). But the LGPL primarily benefits PROGRAMMERS, so we don't all have to keep reinventing the wheel every lousy day.

Even though GPL software is of primary benefit to the user, the programmers working on the GPL software want to get some kind of benefit from their hard work. Since they aren't getting paid, they want to be the programmers and the users. At least that way, they'll have really cool software to show for their hard work.

But, if they were using LGPL libraries to complete projects they were getting paid for, AND saving massive amounts of time in the long run, they would already have a benefit, and the software could be targeted toward the general public.

I'm all for commercial software. It keeps the paychecks rolling. I would stand firmly behind an open-source software movement that helps me (and everybody else) accomplish my job more efficiently.

The free software foundation looks at the LGPL as a necessary evil, not as a real benefit to anybody. Just read the verbiage in their license documentation:

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/why-not-lgpl.html
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl.html

(Okay, I think I'm finally finished...my brain hurts.)

Your thoughts?

Benji Smith
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

It's pretty easy to compete against someone who isn't charging money. Most users understand that that's not a viable business strategy and would run to the door. Secondly, CityDesk is very much a usability/interface-defined product and open source stuff is notoriously weak in that department. Thirdly, Joel/FogCreek have a good product sensibility which I believe would lead to the open sourced version being, at best, a fast (slow?) follower. Open source may be good for some things but this certainly isn't one of them.

pb
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

There's a difference in intent about providing a proprietary product against providing an open source product.

A proprietary product (unless its so expensive that its a service you're buying such as SAP), has to stand or fall on its own two feet.  Sufficient safety nets have to be built in to reduce the trivial support or usage problem as much as possible.  Not particularly because it makes it a better product but because it makes it a viable product to sell.  You won't go bust answering 800 calls.

Open source comes along with an implied term of its own, you have to invest your own time and understanding to get beyond any but the most marginal of utility out of it.

That doesn't mean its 'unusable' or 'unfriendly' just that all the bases are never covered.

The upside to that is that you have a fairly friendly user community to help others. 

So a company that provides Open Source products isn't selling the product per se, it is selling a service around that product.  A company selling a proprietary product may be also selling a service, but its the product that matters to it.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, March 21, 2002

I would not say that Open Source is unfriendly.  Take a look at PHP, I've never met a friendlier language.

There is a convenience function for everything you could possibly want to do, programming has never been so easy.

I also use the open source DynAPI package for cross browser DHTML.  dynapi.sourcefourge.net.  These open sourcers have succeeded where the big boys have failed.

However, they are only friendly for their target audience.  For other users they are just too powerful, too complex to use.

I think Joels comment of programmer getting into trouble for installing Linux on their spouse's box sums it up.

On the other hand, I find Word very unfriendly.  How am I supposed to work with text without regular expressions.  StarOffice has regular expressions.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, March 21, 2002

[Disclaimer: I love Open Source]

Open Source software gets written either because a programmer wants to use it, or someone who is able to pay a programmer can make money off using the software, without making money off selling it.

This works well with servers. If your company needs a module to run Ruby code Really Fast in apache, you're going to have to write it anyway, selling it is too much of a hassle, and it'll cost you nothing to contribute it back to the apache organization.

It works well with programming tools, too. Some guys I work with wrote a Java object persistence framework. It's got a modest fan-base on sourceforge now, so the company gets to benefit from the free improvements.

User-centric software, on the other hand, doesn't fare so well.  Programs get written to meet the needs of the people programming them. Features get added because they interest the programmers There are heaps of Open Source content management systems, and they're mostly for running blogs, are insanely configurable, and require a significant amount of programming knowledge to get running.

An Open Source Citydesk would require you to install MySQL to store your data, learn Scheme to code the pages, and it wouldn't have a GUI HTML editor, because everyone writes HTML by hand in vi or emacs, right?

The only reason an Open Source version of Citydesk would ever appear is if someone really had it in for Joel and wanted to prove a point.

Charles Miller
Thursday, March 21, 2002

Re-reading my post above, I'm wondering how long before we see an open source competitor for Radio Userland. It's surely only a matter of time. :)

Charles Miller
Thursday, March 21, 2002

I do wonder about Radio Userland. I have an acquaintance who works for them who invited me to give it a go. I didn't like it, and said so - and why.

Apparently most everything that I said was a fault was because I didn't understand, or because it was my fault for some reason.

I've been working with internet stuff for at least 8 years; but it's my fault when I think userland behaves in a poor manner under certain conditions. Uh huh. Fine. I'm proving my point about userland by not using it.

robert moir
Thursday, March 21, 2002

In my experience there are two times where open source is good, and upon analysis, sometimes it may be two sides of the same coin.

1) Software that supports a concept rather than a specific tool.

GREP for example. Various text editors. These are ideas, almost mathematical algorithms. There's no real profit in it because it's a concept. Sure Homesite is a great tool and presumably made money, but then, they pull so many things together that it's worth the $60 or however many dollars in time savings.

2) Software that's very utilitarian.

Like Perl or Linux. Maybe this is also a concept, but "a really solid scripting language that's based on what works" is going to be supported because, well, it works. PHP would fall into this category. These things tend to be a bunch of tools cobbled together and glued somehow.

In either case, if it broke, someone is going to *want* to fix it because of the wide install base and because they don't want to run into the same problem. Also, because, theoretically, it should be fixed. Sort of like piecing together TOE from various theories and concepts. Scientists would want to fix it if it didn't work because it's a concept that's supposed to be perfect.

So, the question is, does CityDesk fall squarely into either one of these categories?

Not in my opinion. Sure templating is a concept, blogging is a tool, as is scripting. Each one already exists independantly, but I don't think there's much value in pulling all to these things together.

There are open source word processors, but nothing that does *everything* that MS Word does. Why? Because it's not simple or utilitarian enough for someone to want to support just for the heck of it.

Yes I know about Star Office, but I'd barely consider that open source... That's Sun trying to knock Microsoft back a few notches, gain brand recognition, etc. Also, they have paid developers working on it, as with the Mozilla project, but since it's open source and they don't get paid for it, there's no gaurantee that they'll continue to upgrade it. Sun could drop it without losing money, just like AOL could drop Mozilla without losing money.

MS Office, on the other hand, generates revenue for Microsoft and keeps people embedded in their OS, so there's an inscentive for them to keep it up to date and feature full.

PS I don't really know what .net is, so why is it funny that my company announced they'd be using it?

Mark W
Thursday, March 21, 2002

I was not asking, “Do you think this could happen?” “Do you think the UI would suck?” or “Is this possible?” I am asking a business question. Put yourself in the owner’s shoes. What if this happened to the project you are working on? Has this happened to you?
I’ve though about this and answered my own question.
You can use FUD, advertising, lock-in or add features to get customers to buy from your company. All of those answers can have bad consequences. FUD and lock-in can alienate customers. Adding features and advertising cost real money.
Your company could join the movement. Take both products, merge the best features from each, and sell the latest, or sell the easy install version. You get the benefits of open source and still get paid. Obviously, you won’t get paid as much.
None of my answers are ideal. Anyone have better ideas or different opinions?

Doug Withau
Thursday, March 21, 2002

Doug - I made a prediction back in 1998 that within ten years, most programmers will be as poor as most writers. Thanks to Open Source, my prediction is slowly but surely taking place.

Sysadmins will not be affected much however.

Roger
Thursday, March 21, 2002

"I was not asking, “Do you think this could happen?” “Do you think the UI would suck?” or “Is this possible?” I am asking a business question. Put yourself in the owner’s shoes. What if this happened to the project you are working on? Has this happened to you?"

This is going to sound like manager speak, but where is the value add that a company can give to a product that an open source community can't? I'd figure out what that was and exploit it. I'd also do my best to learn from the open source folks, try to figure out what their product doesn't do, and do both. Again, I'd raise brand recognition as much as I could as quickly as I could, I'd put together a professional looking website and a strong sales force.

MS Word is more robust than any single open source alternative, is relatively easy to use, and is therefore a great choice for enterprise wide deployment where the individual user will not be technically inclined, and will invariably want to do something bizarre and complex. It also produces files in a proprietary format so that other companies will want to use it so they can receive files from my company. This is sort of like the Fax machine. It was proprietary until it became widely distributed.

If I were Fog Creek in this situation, I'd make CityDesk into an MS Word, piling features on at rediculous speed. I think this is why Vignette and Interwoven are doing so much better than eGrail and other newcomers with simpler, less robust products.

I would also form very high visibility alliances with products that are well known that people will want to integrate with my product.

I'd hire the lead developer(s) of the open source product, or otherwise integrate with it so any features it might have had that I didn't would get pulled in, and future development would slow down. Even at a few hundred thousand dollars for a handful of developers, it's cheaper to be a monopoly.

The more I think about it, the more I think I'd be just like MicroSoft.

Mark W
Thursday, March 21, 2002

I'm actually on the side of the opensource guy, but it's fun looking at these from both sides.

Aside from the two I mentioned, JBoss vs. proprietary J2EE app servers is another case study.  From what I hear, JBoss is higher quality in some respects, but still has strong competition from a wide range of companies.

Richard Jenkins
Thursday, March 21, 2002

An interesting comment from today’s lunch discussion:
"Nobody can make money with open source software, but everyone can save money with open source software."
That's, like, really wise.
If I'm quoting someone, apologies.

Doug Withau
Thursday, March 21, 2002

Doug - If you work in IT, would you work for a company who's looking to save a lot and spend very little in IT ? If the OS is free and the apps are free; tell me why you're worth more than $20k/year for them?

Roger
Thursday, March 21, 2002

Try telling that to Red Hat.

Mark W
Thursday, March 21, 2002

I'm not Doug, but I'd guess that the answer is ... I'm worth more than 20K/yr because in one year I produce software which they can sell for > 20K (or, if I were in a different business, which saves them > 20K/yr). And, if I can incorporate (and support) freeware or even relativelycheapware into the product, which saves me weeks or months of development time over having to write it myself, that's not a problem at all. It only means that I finish sooner, and therefore I can write other (more) stuff later in the year; and also, write stuff economically that I otherwise couldn't write at all (economically).

Christopher Wells
Thursday, March 21, 2002

You need to focus on specifics.

* There is a free basic version of Citydesk.  This mitigates things somewhat.
* The point of Citydesk is to develop it rapidly using platform-specific tools.  Our brilliant grad student Roderick would be facing an uphill battle.
* Read Sun Tzu.  One may know the principles of victory, without her being able to attain it.  The opponent must often provide the tools for his own defeat.
[ http://www.sonshi.com/learn.html ]
I mention this because people can always respond with smarter and nastier boogeymen, but often the deciding factor is about taking advantage of tactical errors.  These situations can't be known a priori.
* The morale of contributors would be damaged by competing directly against a relatively benign company.

Sammy (whose browser just crashed & is sleepee)
Friday, March 22, 2002

Doug, in this case using FUD tactics would be like fondling a razor with your wrist.  Who can see through FUD?  Developers.  Who provides the PR for opensource projects?  Developers.  Who reads joelonsoftware.com?

Take it from Steve Ballmer.  DEVELOPERS!!!

Sammy
Friday, March 22, 2002

I've been taking it up the bottom from people like Steve Ballmer for so long that I no longer feel the pain.

Simon Lucy
Friday, March 22, 2002

Rodger,
I don't get this:
"If the OS is free and the apps are free; tell me why you're worth more than $20k/year for them"
I do not work in IT, but...
Assume my company still needs to upgrade PCs, hire support staff, and all the other IT activities. With the free software, the company saved money. If I did something to save my company money, that money would go to the bottom line. To my employer, that makes me a good employee, and therefore worth keeping.
Do you really work in a company that wants to spend more on IT?
Yes, other people can probably do my job, and maybe for less pay. That is always true whether the software is free or not.

Doug Withau
Friday, March 22, 2002

Doug - Upgrade a PC? It won't happen much with Open Source. It runs well on low end machines.

Sure, the company will need support technicians, but that's about it.

The fact that your company is using free software makes you a good employee? how come?

Roger
Friday, March 22, 2002

"Upgrade a PC? It won't happen much with Open Source. It runs well on low end machines."

So if MS Office 2000 Pro was GPLd tomorrow it would suddenly run well on a 486 and cease being "bloatware"?

Get real. Theres nothing magical about "open source". Some good products some bad products. Just like every other kind of software.

robert moir
Friday, March 22, 2002

Star Office and Netscape 6 *are* open source and barely run on my 233mhz/64mb ram computer in Windows. I doubt they'd run much better if I installed Linux on this machine.

Mark W
Friday, March 22, 2002

Yeah but they are good or bad products because of the work that has gone into them. My point was, there is a lot of talking about  "open source" software being this or that, but it's not good, or bad, or bloatware, or compact and bijou because of it's licence terms.

As I said, if the impossible happened and MS GPLd Office 2000, would it immediately run superbly on a 486? Of course not! But yet, according to a previous post open source software runs superbly on low end systems.

Robert Moir
Friday, March 22, 2002

"Assume my company still needs to upgrade PCs, hire support staff, and all the other IT activities. With the free software, the company saved money. If I did something to save my company money, that money would go to the bottom line. To my employer, that makes me a good employee, and therefore worth keeping."

No, it doesn't because you didn't save the company any money at all.  In fact, you've hit on the main problem of open source -- it's more expensive.

Here's O'Brien's Law: The Box is the cheapest part of IT.  Always. Doesn't matter if you're talking about supercomputers or PCs.

What costs an arm and a leg is labor.  Both end-user and IT staff.

Open source staff is, generally, more expensive than proprietary staff.  It's just a question of the size of the labor pool.  The main reason midranges and mainframes largely disappeared is because you could either have big iron guys at $100K/yr or more, or PC guys at $40-60K/yr.  So even if you think the guy will work for your company for only 2-3 years, that means a savings of $40-60K *per employee per year*.

And, compared to this, you want to save the $1000 or so for proprietary software?  Even if you upgrade every year, that's *as nothing* compared to the jump in labor costs.

And that's before you get to the end-user workpool.  How many secretaries know StarOffice?  How many know Word?
How about in Sales?  Marketing?  Warehouse?

Open source is, from a business point of view, an attempt to go back to the Good Old Days of big iron salaries.  And that's too expensive to ever get much traction among the guys who actually control the purse strings.  *Programmers* love it, sure, but why wouldn't they?

And how many CIOs ever become CEOs?

But look at it this way.  Could be worse.  How many VPs of HR ever become CEOs? :)

Hal O'Brien
Friday, March 22, 2002

bla bla bla. did anyone posting actually bother to think about the question? Too bad Doug posed the question in terms of "open source", cuz that seems to polarize all discussion on this board. What (i gathered) he was really asking was:

what happens when someone comes out with your same product, but it is free?

Lets say Joe Bob Brady comes out with "Country Table" next week. Country Table does everything that City Desk does, and then some. Joe Bob made a killing when he sold his hog farm to monsanto and plans to spend his early retirement improving upon Country Table. How does Joel compete with Joe Bob?

chunks
Saturday, March 23, 2002

Hey. A LOT of posts were from the point of view of a company who has competition from an open source competitor and did answer the question.

Here's my short answer (for my long answer read my posts above):

Joel is a better manager than Joe Bob.

PS: Robert - I agree with you, I was pointing out that Bloatware exists in open source as well as in Shrink Wrap. Software is software, the "open source/not open source" variable has little bearing on the other variables.

Mark W
Saturday, March 23, 2002

Chunks, that question is completely different.  My analysis does not hold under it.

I do agree though that the Open Source part does trip people up.

People are probably focusing too much in trying to say Joel Über Alles, when in reality he only has certain advantages.  It is quite possible to kill Citydesk given a sufficiently scary boogeyman.

I would turn the question around and ask how the boogeyman would kill Citydesk, given determined resistance.

Sammy
Saturday, March 23, 2002

chunks, SourceForge lists 5155 open source projects for Win32.  Surely some of those projects already compete with commercially available software.

In other words, open source and commercial software are already in competition.  The market's verdict on this, to date, has been fairly clear.  Whether that changes in the future... enh. {shrug}

Hal O'Brien
Sunday, March 24, 2002

hal - you are simply not comparing like for like. either the product will require continued development /by you/ or it will not. that is, either you are talking about packaged solutions like m$ word or staroffice, or you are talking about something developed specifically for you (either in house or by a software house).

you cannot make changes to "commercial" packaged software, to therefore compare that with os "packaged" software is incorrect - the cost to develop the same amount (nothing) for both sets of software is zero.

in the case of bespoke software, the costs are also roughly equal. open source developers and non-os developers are not completely separate sets, both sets are members of the "developers" set (in fact there is a union of the two), and therefore will cost you about the same. members of the sets will have roughly the same skills and so on. there is no difference. the fact that i can write closed source s/ware does not exclude me from writing os s/ware.

the big difference is that if you are using packaged software and the company goes tits up or simply decides not to continue support and development then you are fscked, unless you can tell us how much it costs to hire someone to make changes to software for which you do not have the source. what is the difference between that situation and open source if/when the project members make the same decision?

nope
Monday, March 25, 2002

Here's a tip:

Saying M$ instead of MS is not clever. If I see M$ anywhere in your post, I will assume you are an 17 years old, spend 7 hours of every day reading slashdot, and that you are an idiot.

I'm not saying that anyone should alter their opinions, just this: if you want to appear credible and if you want people to think you have something valuable to say, it's best to give up juvenile name calling (i.e., "M$").

Benji Smith
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Following Benji's advice, I ignored the last post. =)

Someone mentioned that we should turn this topic on it's head and examien it from the open source project's point of view. I think there are some underlying assumptions here that we're not acknowledging.

1) open source projects will have no trouble competing.

2) if they do, it's not a big deal because they're not in it to make money

3) while a company has to face the possibility of closing down if nobody uses their product, an open source project could continue forever with a very small user base

do you think this is accurate or think there's anything to add?

Mark W
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I think it's accurate that those assumptions are being made.

Now the question of how accurate those assumptions are is a lot less clear cut and black and white.

robert moir
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

"So, let us say that somewhere there is a grad student, an Open Source believer, who is hacking away on his own equivalent to City Desk."

What happens when he graduates and has to get a job?  Should we fear a world where all the best coders work days at starbucks so they can put professional developers out of work?

I expect a lot of this silliness has already gone away with the collapse of dot.com tulip mania.

http://www.limewire.com/index.jsp/limewire_llc
"Lime Wire LLC is currently in the process of raising venture capital to finance its continued expansion."

I wonder if they'll get it.

b
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Ah, the great Tulip crash of 1637.

"Let's say there's a farmer at home hacking away at his own Tulip..."

Mark W
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Nope said:

"hal - you are simply not comparing like for like. either the product will require continued development /by you/ or it will not. that is, either you are talking about packaged solutions like m$ word or staroffice, or you are talking about something developed specifically for you (either in house or by a software house)."

Ummm... where do I say that *all* 5100+ open source projects for Win32 are in competition with "packaged solutions"?  I said "some".  That might mean 10, that might mean 500, that might mean 2500 -- I just don't know, and don't feel like wading through all those projects.

So I'll stick by the comparison -- *some* open source projects already compete with "packaged solutions".  It's therefore reasonable to assume that an open source competitor to City Desk would compete about as well as previous open source projects have.

Although the argument you make here dovetails into my usual point that what one really buys from a programmer is labor, not a product, since programming is a skill, not an art.  But that's a whole different can of worms, and one you probably didn't intend to open.

Hal O'Brien
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

benji - what you choose to read or do not read is your own business, because luckily for everyone else you are not able to extend your prejudices into censorship.

nope
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

"Ummm... where do I say that *all* 5100+ open source projects for Win32 are in competition with "packaged solutions"? "

what type of software costs 1000cu? is it likely to be a packaged solution or something which has to be custom written? you are evading the issue. you claimed open source is "more expensive". full stop. no "some".

i would argue further that for an open source project to "compete" with its commercial 'equivalent' it would need to be advertised and promoted to the same people with the same vigour that commercial software is, and that does not happen. what is more,  i doubt that many of the projects concerned could give a monkeys about it.

nope
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

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