Still clueless, after all these years

July 23, 2008 Jack Repenning

It’s amazing to still find people who misunderstand terms like "Open Source Software" or "Free Software" to mean "available without charge," despite frequent clarifications, and even the ten-year old formation of the Open Source Initiative (and the renaming to "Open Source" precisely to combat this misunderstanding).

Still, Jon’s right in suggesting that Open Source Software has had some effect of commoditization. That might be good or bad, depending on where you sit. For the inner-sourcerer, though, it’s all good. Open Source in general, and Inner Source in particular, is another in the long line of "things we agree on so we can get on with the interesting work." Rather than building something new just because the existing ones aren’t quite right, you can contribute back  your additions. Does the world need yet another JavaScript menu bar? Perish the thought! But if the one you like best only allows menus up to five lines, and you need six, what can you do? Well, if it’s Open or Inner Source, you can make the enhancement, contribute it back, and get on with filling your six-row menus with your interesting stuff. If it’s proprietary, you have to beg the vendor to enhance it, or (*gasp*) reorganize your menus!

As is often true of "commoditization,"  it’s not a problem if you truely have something novel and worthwhile to contribute. And if you don’t, who gave you the right to waste programming time reinventing wheels?

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