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ACM Queue: The Age of Corporate Open Source Enlightenment

Sep 04, 2003, 01:00 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Ferris)

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"It's a bad idea, mixing politics and religion. Conventional wisdom tells us to keep them separate—and to discuss neither at a dinner party. The same has been said about the world of software. When it comes to mixing the open source church with the proprietary state (or is it the other way around?), only one rule applies: Don't do it.

"Still, people keep trying to mix the two—the software, that is. For example, some companies spend countless hours in committees with the hopeful goal of finding a way the two can work together in harmony. More often than not, however, a heated debate erupts between warring religious factions.

"People on the sidelines (often wearing suits) are amused, disgusted, or baffled by this. It's just technology, they say. 'This Linux thing is just like Unix, isn't it?,' they ask. No one is quite able to explain what's going on. The constant blur of change in IT doesn't help matters much either.

"Consider this a feeble attempt to explain some of the undercurrents in the open source movement as they pertain to corporate America today. Sure, it would be nice to avoid the religious metaphor, but doing so would leave out some of the most important elements driving this change, along with the caveats that are a part of the craziness of it all..."

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