Jul 19

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

Opening The Source

Dana's blog on Hyperic opening its code has this worthy line: Open source does not just change license terms. It can change everything. There needs to be a phrase that's the exact opposite of "throwing code over the fence" to describe this change from closed source company to open source. I saw this when Sun opened Solaris. They looked at every facet of their software, from repository to decision-making to the libraries it used, and changed everything so it would work as an open source project. A huge task, but Sun knew it was essential if the open sourcing was to work. If Sun ever transitions from a hardware company to a consulting company, these best practices for open sourcing are something it could sell. Think Producing Open Source for the whole company.

tags:   | comments: 5   | Sphere It

Previous  |  Next

0 TrackBacks

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments: 5

  Simon Phipps [07.19.06 06:00 AM]

Thanks for the comment, Nat. I'll be talking about this in my OSCON keynote and in the afternoon session the same day - the license is the easy bit! This, by the way, is the reason why opening the Java platform is not just a snap-your-fingers thing - we are being just as thorough with opening that.

  suppositious [07.19.06 11:06 AM]

Well, I don't know as it's the *exact* opposite to "throwing the code over the fence" but "opening a can of worms" occurs to me.

Making a project available, much less workable, for a large number of unfiltered folks is pretty challenging, something like that highly interactive process of opening the can and trying to find just one juicy one for the hook.

And good luck to all those wonderful people who do that kind of work. They're building our new world, I guess.

  Richard [07.19.06 06:45 PM]

See, I disagree with this quite strongly.

I think companies - and Sun is one of the worst, if not the absolute worst - use this idea as an excuse, a delaying tactic to avoid getting their code out there. How long have we been told that Java "could be opened any day, but the time isn't right, the processes aren't in place, etc. etc."? One of the things the Open Source world is good at doing is generating self-organising communities, where the right people normally end up doing the right job, as a matter of course. Sun, on the other hand, is very keen on creating 'communities' - designing them, with committees, councils and other largely pointless things designed in from the start, rather than emerging naturally as needed.

I have first-hand experience of Sun's internal development processes, at least up to February last year, and I can tell you that that is how Sun works internally - lots of committees, who have to approve everything, various councils which provide long-range plans which never survive first enemy contact, and so on. A lot of the processes are observed more in the breach than otherwise - there are plenty of people with the real or imagined political power to ignore or circumvent the rules when it suits them. Yes, I may be a little bit bitter...

I think the code should lead and the community should follow - not in the sense of 'throwing it over the wall', but in the sense of pushing it over the wall and then joining it - rather than Sun's current process of sending a large team over the wall to build an immensely complicated structure for gently lowering the code over the wall. Okay, stretched that too far - but my point is that Sun, and other companies following their example, tend to try to create something like a corporate structure in the Open Source world to hold their code - partly because that's just the way corporate people think, and partly because it's a way of protecting themselves from the perceived anarchy of the true Open Source world. It's a wild wild world out there, but you're not going to get the benefits unless you jump in...

  Matthew giles [07.21.06 06:57 AM]

Thanks for the comment, Nat. I'll be talking about this the same day.
I encourage the open of the source.

  Simon Phipps [07.21.06 04:59 PM]

The problem with Richard's view is it only works for code that's being abandoned. Sun doesn't do that. The code comes with a community already, and you can't just tell all those people they have no further role and thanks for playing.

We're not delaying; we're respecting the people who are already the committers and maintainers and working out how they operate in a world with open doors. It worked for OpenSolaris and I intend to make sure it works for the Java platform too.

Post A Comment:

 (please be patient, comments may take awhile to post)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.