Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Free open source software (FOSS) lets talent shine

This is the first article on the HTT category. I thought a bit about the challenge Eric posted and about the ways in which I could collect facts about talent in today's business world.

Free open source software strikes me as a great field that is more than ever within the realm of business and where talent is the key differentiator for customers.

The process of peer reviewing refines software and improves the capability of contributors. Through open source people build things in a context where they define positive objectives with playfulness. Playfulness is what characterizes the learning process of children to a large extent: they experience their environment and build their capabilities in a lively manner by allowing themselves to be wrong and sometimes fail. With its peer reviewing process open source creates an environment in which talent can be led to greater heights. Individual contributions are assessed, completed, enhanced, improved, commented, documented and communicated. A whole chain of talent is at work to create software that can subsequently allow each and every person willing to use it (including those of us who are perfectly incapable of building software) to do so. To let the chain of talent continue to operate its wonders inside the economy, the open source software is also made available for free (what is sometimes called FOSS... YAUA if you ask me).

When it comes to actually to business uses of the software, another set of capabilities are put into action to ensure quality of implementation. The fact is that with the same resources (i.e. free open source software packages) there will be service providers (often independent professionals in IT services) who will excel and service providers who will do slightly less well for their customers. Where does the difference in performance come from? I will not discuss the concept of quality here (an intersting resource on that would be Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"). However, let us list the differences between the two situations:
- nature of the project
- the client organization and its personnel's capabilities
- the people who delivered the service of deployment of the free open source software package
- other factors (that I consider to be not significant)

Ultimately however, is it legitimate for a service provider to find excuses in the nature of a project or in the capabilities of the client's organization? If the service provider has access to enough talent (how much is that I will not discuss), can he not overcome those issues?

If not, then can we not consider that the service provider bears the responsibility of failing to properly assess the obstacles of the project in the first place, which in the end is a matter of judgement of the people the service provider can use (therefore a matter of talent)?

If yes, then it does make sense to consider that the single most important factor of successful use of free open source software in business contexts is TALENT.

I see that as an indication that the tide is turning in favour of talent. FOSS contributes to the creation of a business environment in which talent shines and becomes the single most important factor for business sucess.

"It is people who make the world go round (or not)"


  1. Very interesting topic. I'm by no means a specialist of free source stuff but I see this as a true revolution or better: the birth of communities of artists or craftsmen ...
    The web is a medium for everybody to express his talent
    Curious to see how our capitalistic world will digest that.
    I'm somewhat pessimistic: look at lindows and suse, two sad examples...

  2. Eric,
    Lindows is not (yet?) a sad example since it was simply rebranded Linspire and they still have their agreement to sell extra-inexpensive machines via Wal Mart. Also, it is worth looking at Mozilla, Firefox (very cool and eating up market share from Microsoft's IE at whopping speed), OpenOffice, Mandrake...
    Finally, something that might be even more significant is the fact that JP Morgan Chase announced just a couple of days ago (published on Slashdot on Feb. 8) that they are open sourcing their messaging middleware (see quote below).
    I guess the fate of FOSS is an endless debate. What is significant is really what you wrote: the web is a great medium for communities of talent.
    == QUOTE from ==
    "John Davies has announced AMQ, an effort at JPMorgan Chase & Co. to create an open-source message queuing system that can compete with proprietary message systems like IBM MQSeries and Tibco/RV. The announcement was made at the annual conference Web Services on Wall Street during Davies' presentation on February 1. eWeek has an article today with more details and some funny statements about Red Hat, SuSE and Sun possibly integrating AMQ into their "kernel". If JPMorgan Chase & Co. follows through with their announcement and they come up with a suitable open-source license, AMQ could become the Apache of messaging systems."
    == UNQUOTE ==

  3. lindows and suse were two sad examples ... for me, as a basic user. I bought something (yes I bought as lindows is not free) which was sold as 'far far better than XP' but which refused to recognize half of my hardware ...
    No client support - just communities where after hours of search and questions I discovered that drivers would probably be available in the next version ... No big problem with that except the lack of transparency when you buy their stuff. so, bad customer's experience ...
    cheers eric