Paul Krill of Inforworld reports on Rich Green of SUNW muses on Professional Open Source at a recent netbeans event.
Rich "gets it". He wasn't born "getting it" as he is not, was not, a developer. But as far as "execs" go he strikes me as a "common-sense" kinda guy. So he works hard at getting it. It is bearing fruit. Money quote: "OSS is like a Robin Hood in reverse, you steal from the poor to make the rich richer". Lol, brilliant. What would Marc Fleury do? come out and say just that!
More seriously, Rich basically expresses concern about the "sustainability" of the model and says that the economic underpinnings have got to be healthy, meaning developers paid, for the model to be viable long term. I think that statement went right above the heads of most of his audience. I am sure it annoyed many of the more communistic bent communities out there. Let them be annoyed!
Basically Rich is restating the case for "Professional Open Source" but on a different scale. If SUNW were to really embrace a POSS like model they could really be disruptive. It is almost there, in a sense what is missing is the cult of personality in the developers rank.
See, as I mentioned in the previous blog, our claim to fame with JBoss was taking the "professional open source" off of the run-way by focusing on super-stars. It was the insight of "let's pay superstars to do shit!". Free software != free developpers. And I got crucified for speaking so openly about money because money was a taboo. I am so glad we ignored the critics and some of the core guys have got money to show for it. IT was and is important to me.
The best OSS developers in the world need to make money off of their work if they are going to do it full time. It seems like an innocuous trivial statement in retrospect.
OSS is a meritocracy, meritocracies don't necessarily keep score with money. But if your OSS project is your full time job then, at the end of the day these meritocracies exist in the context of "the real world". In the "real world" you need money more than you need the respect of your peers to pay the bills. Ideally you get both and that is what you got with Professional Open Source.
It came to pass and it is still bearing fruits. I was watching some pictures of JBoss World 06 that I found on my father's computer this morning. What a crew we had assembled! Bill, Adrian, Bela, Scott, Gavin, Emmanuel, Tom, Mark, Rich, etc etc etc
Reading this morning about the integration of Groovy into Seam reminded me of the innovation that can take place when you pay the right people.
Professional OPen Source was rooted in the notion that you pay for the superior talent and you pay well. In the mythical man month approach to software development, superior coders are more productive by an order of magnitude than just "good coders".
A economic translation of the mythical man month hypothesis, is that "mathematically" you get more innovation and productivity by paying one superior developer $10 than by paying $1 to 10 average guys.
Some tasks in software are better served by "lone-wolf" innovators than by armies of developers, some are not.
Message to Rich Green: you are at the crux of Professional Open Source's raison d'etre. Keep on digging. Standalone JBoss was an implementation of this model at a small scale. JBoss as a division of RHT is an implementation of this model at a medium scale. You can figure it out on a large scale.
IF you figure it out it could change the dynamics of enterprise software, for ever.