Timmy's Telethon #5

It’s not all about Timmy, Timmy worries about the little people too!

  1. Business model: I think I’m missing the business opportunity behind open source. Perhaps its altruism or a hobby… but that only goes so far. How are people leveraging this to pay the bills? Are services where the money is at?

Do you litter? When you put your garbage in a can, instead of dropping it on the street, is it altruism, or self-interest? After all, you’re keeping your own environment clean along with everyone else’s. What about the fellow who actually bends over and picks up someone else’s empty coffee cup to put into the can?

Open source turns software into a commons, like the environment, but because we are used to thinking of software as property, our minds find it hard to figure out why open source software aggregates effort and gets cleaner, faster, stronger. Unlike picking up litter, which everyone can do, improving open source can only be done by a small percentage of the population who can understand and work on the code, and that makes it even harder for the rest of the population to understand what is going on. WTF are these lunatics up to, moving bits of used paper into cylindrical holding devices?

The people improving open source fall into lots of categories, but here are some broad ones:

Notably missing from this list is “the billionaire” and “the venture capitalist”. That is because, while there is money to be made in open source, there is not a lot of money to be made. People who try to put up fences in the open source commons find that all the rest of the players end up routing around them, and the value slowly drains from their little patch of land, leaving them only with the tried and true proprietary model to fall back on.