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Software Development Online: Is Open Source for You?

May 24, 2001, 13:33 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Rick Wayne)

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This is a reasonable introduction to open source software from someone who characterizes himself as a realist on the matter. There are a few mild swipes at "the zealots" but for the most part he's friendly to open source software, uses open source software, and offers a set of interesting guidelines for when it's good to go open source and when it's not.

"For one thing, you can just use the tools. In the second part of this article, I'll show you an example of doing just that, in a real-world, three-tier project. If you can get the job done this way, you really can reap lower overall cost, crash-resistant systems and freedom from vendor lock-in. As for your contribution, simply by expanding the ubiquity of, say, Apache, you'll be helping the project, especially if you remember those bug reports.

If you want to get more involved, you can participate in development. Many open source authors have "real" jobs just like you and me, but they either work on open source products in their free time or get their employer's permission to do a bit on company time. These projects require more than programmers, too-most have a crying need for writers, testers, analysts and designers.

Finally, you might take the plunge into making your company's projects open source. This is the scary one, and it works only for certain products-those you want to promote as a platform to leverage other products, perhaps, or ones for which you can invent a business model based on services, or ones without much of a direct-sales revenue stream. In Eric Raymond's essay, "The Magic Cauldron", he argues that today, "software is largely a service industry operating under the persistent but unfounded delusion that it is a manufacturing industry."

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