I'm at the Rational Software Development Conference 2006, taking a break between sessions. If you haven't seen it already, there is a lot going on. You can start on our blog and podcast page for this event.
The first interesting session I found was on Building a Strong Software Business on Open Source, by Palle Pedersen, CTO of Black Duck Software. His company works on testing compliance in software products. In particular, they have taken a look at the issues around licensing, usage and behavior of teams who use open source software or incorporate them into products of their own.
Interesting factoid: there are now about 600 different variations of open source licenses. Can you imagine checking compliance of code/products that incorporates that kind of range/possibility of OS software?
More interesting to me is his point that there is a common best practice to how to incorporate OSS into your own line:
- start with an OSS-based "lite" version of your product
- initiate and grow a community around your product to draw or gain a sufficient user base
- develop an advanced commercially licensed upgrade of the product.
This is oversimplification of the whole thing but its step two of this business model that obviously catches my eye. In fact, there were a few questions about how to do Step 2. This is in fact exactly what our Community team in dW is tackling. I'm just glad that people are starting to recognize the importance of this as a required part of the open source business model.
We've known this for a while but many groups tend to just gloss over this. The assumption is that if you start a discussion group, you've satisfied that step. It's not as simple as that. In fact, there are many OS products with discussion groups but that still never take off as a success. What is needed is a more scientific way of performing this overall step (which is what I'm hoping would become the outcome of my current side-project to create a course for Community Management at the University of Arizona MIS dept. More on that later).
In any case, I think there's a story there in what Palle said around this OSS business model and community development to pursue.