Hacking for Fun and Profit
Netscape released its source code in 1998, it signaled the world that
things had changed. The open
source movement and free software development seized instantaneous
recognition, marketshare, power, and economic leverage.
It seemed like a one-time occurrence; however, that should not be
the case. Rather what is
needed is a credible story and marketing campaign that explains why and
how others should follow suit and repeat that phenomenon.
percent of the general population has short attention spans and difficulty
thinking in abstract terms. Ordinarily,
the mainstream press is not interested in an idea or concept without a
charismatic, evangelical personality or character involved.
Selling the idea of open source in software development requires
individuals who are extroverted, able tell stories, and financially secure
because they will not be paid to spread the “gospel.”
Ambassadors of open source who are eager to sell the concept need a
The Master Plan
recognize how different you are from your target audience and compensate
for your differences in communication styles.
Using abstract terms to convince target audiences about the virtues
of open source will not be compelling.
Therefore, speak to them in their own language, not yours. Tell them about what a good idea this is for them to adopt.
Realize that talking with people with whom you have everyday
contact and exposure is “do-able.” Very few of us have personal exposure to Fortune 500
executives. Start from where
you are and use concrete terms and stories to sell open source.
Business Media Coverage
a media campaign that targets high-level, Fortune 500 executives because
they have the money and high visibility profiles.
Basically, there are three kinds of people in organizations:
underlings who actually do the work; middle management whose job it
is to say “No” to sustain organization stability; and high level,
strategic executives who determine where business goes.
The last group makes the far reaching changes; therefore, enlighten
them because change gets imposed from the top down, not vice versa.
Selling the idea up the ranks does not work.
Radical breaks in business practices are made by CEOs, CIOs, CTOs,
and Board of Directors. Use
the media – magazines, newspapers, and electronic forums – they
consume to shape their best business practices.
Gain media coverage from recognized outlets such as CNN, the Wall
Street Journal, CNET, Fortune,
CNBC, the Economist, the New
York Times, and other credible business forums.
Avoid the technology press.
the language of business jargon when addressing the media and Fortune 500
executives. Use humor to keep
their attention. They are not
interested in the idealist’s speech on open source technology. Rather they respond positively when you communicate messages
about return on investment (ROI), total cost of ownership, and strategic
business risk. Remember,
business people are “differently enabled” than you are but equally
“smart” in their field of expertise.
Respect them when you sell to them by eliminating any contempt or
prejudice you may have about them. By
saturating the media with the open source story, you can change the
opinion of top executives who heed the words of the business media.
It is not the technology that matters.
Image does not take care of itself.
By carefully crafting the open source image, a herd mentality can
be created where early adopter, Fortune 500 executives buy in first while
the rest follow. As an
example, the legitimization of open source came when Netscape, a leading
Fortune 500 company, adopted the practice.
Now companies such as IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett Packard
have open source products.
The Sales Pitch for Open Source
are three compelling reasons to demand open source from software vendors.
and stability. Linux is
software developed for 24-7. Systems
that use it have a history of less down time.
As open source code, it is available for peer review and
inspection by anyone, not just its original designers group.
This makes getting “fixes/repairs” faster because they are
not limited to a small pool of developers, but the entire population
of Linux programmers worldwide. In
the tradition of engineering and the sciences, open source code hedges
against human design failure because constant review is possible.
There are no secrets. Risks
are lowered, controlled, and managed because no single company or
organization proprietarily “owns” the source code or is solely
cost of ownership. The
cost of software is not in its initial development but in the support,
maintenance, and personnel that keep it running downstream. Open source gives organizations the biggest talent pool
for personnel and therefore limits/controls the cost of doing
business. Developers gain
a deeper education and experience with open source because they learn
to read, understand, and improve the programming of other developers. This would not be possible with proprietary software.
Since some educational institutions use Linux because it is
free or cheap, Linux-proficient graduates are on the rise. Business
organizations should consider doing likewise.
Also on the job, Linux personnel are considered superior to
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSEs) because they have
hands-on experience across multiple platforms/systems and are
receptive to nonproprietary products and practices.
of strategic business and market risk.
There is a potential problem when critical business processes
depend on software that is proprietary and closed source.
Your organization does not and can not control mission critical
applications. Only one
firm has the power to fix, extend, or follow up with software that is
vital to your smooth, continued operations.
Such a monopoly relationship puts your business at the mercy of
higher prices, dependency on a sole source, and unmitigated risk.
With open source, you own and control the source code and have
the choice between multiple vendors bidding for your business or doing
the work in-house. This
lowers costs, increases productivity, and improves shareholder value.
Additionally, open source allows your business the option of
making its own fixes. After
doing this, you may not want to repeat that and Linux vendors come to
the rescue. In any case,
you have added value for free and know that you have not been
Software Service Industry
Revealing source code is not about brokering
secrets, but consulting time and brains.
Open source expands the market even though there is plagiarizing. What cannot be copied is brainpower. Today’s market is knowledge intensive and driven.
If the competition chooses to copy your source code, consider
yourself lucky because they are not competing with you in terms that you
do not understand.
does not give value. Internal
peer reviews do not work. What
is wanted and needed are outside thinkers who can innovate, debug, and fix
code. Cryptographers insist
that open source is essential for security otherwise only the “bad
guys” find weaknesses in source code.
If these rational arguments are not compelling enough, then make
the case for fear. Emphasize that the competition is adopting Linux and business
will migrate with those that use it.
Giving away the source code is analogous to revealing a food recipe
and then opening a restaurant. The
value is not in the ingredients themselves, but in the reliable customer
experience the restaurant provides. The
same can be said about open source. This
paradigm means secrecy is not the only way to do business and can be
replaced with cooperative collaboration for superior results.
the virtues of open source means communicating with people in your
immediate access vicinity as well as the CEO types.
The tradeoff between losing revenue from software sales and
expanding the market by adding customer value is all about software as a
service industry. The market
for services is growing faster than that which is lost in software sales.