When you buy technology, do you expect it to be the latest version, up-to-date and complete, or do you expect to have access to changes and improvements? Which expectation is most realistic? When buying a software package or a GPS unit, a first step of installation is to check for updates – this suggests that there are changes since the item was boxed up for sale – and an update is needed to get current. After that first update, there is often a string of fees for updates and maintenance contracts. The open approach invalidates the static state – you can seek the latest version or fix anytime. The choice is open or complete.
Dick Davies did an excellent post this in Through The Browser – the evolution of open source software culminating with recent developments. From the discussion, here’s some key points that are clear to me:
Software is complex – errors and wanted additional features are discovered by users
Enterprise software is developed by a team under corporate supervision and they control the source code – minor bugs and new features are held till the next Revision (fixes are released in between for major bugs and security issues)
Open source software code is available to all – errors and features can be addressed by any developer and the new version is available to everyone with attribution to the original author
Revisions to open source are quite agile – can be published within days or weeks by other developers
The open source approach encourages an abundance of experienced developers and coders are available to troubleshoot problems or make changes – when needed.
In this open source environment, there are enablers – like Google – which create a platform or system software and release SDKs (software developer kits) with specifics about the software to aid independent developers to expand the applications available.
The enablers also create applications with flexible instruction sets that the user can manipulate for additional functionality. A new illustration is Google Events – a powerful meeting tool designed for the user; or Google’s Cloud Drive, which works just like an additional local drive (with a great sync feature).
I can recall the early days as open source was gaining popularity – I was skeptical about reliability, and concerned that my organization would not get the support it may need – so I rejected adopting anything open source.
I now rely on open source to run several organizations. Problems = 0; downtime = 0; development and modification is by us users, so wait time = 0!
Read Dick’s post at: http://throughthebrowser.blogspot.com/2012/07/open-or-complete.html for more detail and additional material from the 25 imbedded links.
Open source software is certainly worth including in the mix when evaluating a solution – it continues to evolve and, in my view, is a strong viable choice for organizations large and small in the New Normal.
Can Open Source be the Answer to Your Agency’s Software Concerns?