This afternoon it’s Brad Kasell from IBM. I start off agreeing with him.
He says small is the new big. In other words, lots of things that are suddenly cool are little things…blogging, simple idea, del.icio.us, so simple and yet so good. Greasemonkey, which lets you write client side scripts to make web sites work the way you want it to - for example, surf Amazon but with links to book availability in your local library. Disposable applications - love these - the things you write to make your life easier, you write the code, use it, throw it away. (PHP is perfect for many of these by the way.)
He then spends 10 minutes talking about Web Services and SOA…guess what? More on the same theme…RESTian web services and why they are gaining in popularity.
So all of this so far goes towards the theme I see everywhere: simple, clever, elegant technologies. Just to go on my web services rant again, in Brad’s words, technologies most of the time only have to be "good enough". We don’t need wads of standards, platforms, environments, etc for 80% of applications.
Anyway, then he went on to talk about Open Source and I began to disagree, although I still really enjoyed the talk. He had a nice quote from Business Week…Open Source is "give a little, take a lot". (Or if you wanted to start a completely different argument you could say from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs…) He then went through some of the same old arguments I have heard - and heard refuted - before.
Question: Corporations want to buy support and what will they do if the project/company dies? Answer: In many Open Source cases support is available from multiple vendors so you have the freedom to choose. If none suit, you can always support it yourself. (In many cases, if you think that having a vendor to support your software means you’re safe, you can think again. If a vendor goes belly up with proprietary code - or decides to stop supporting it - or won’t make the changes you need to support your business - what would you do?)
He talked about Open Source business models being unsustainable but I felt his argument was pretty flawed. He said only 3% of users of JBoss (for example) buy support, so that was unsustainable. As long as that 3% is enough to support the business to support their users, why isn’t that ok? Not every company has to be a big company. JBoss has been around for a while - as has Red Hat - as has MySQL (10 years this year) - so it must be fairly sustainable. More sustainable than a lot of dotcoms anyway. Further, if only 3% of customers buy support, isn’t the argument that "Companies need support" a myth? Hard to have it both ways.
Two further Good Things Brad mentioned were :
- The Guide to Open Source Software for Australian Government Agencies
- communitycode.org, ala "Hack for the Dole". This is remarkably cool. From their website:
CommunityCode is a group of Australian open source / free software
people who want to give Newstart recipients a way to count any Free Software
work they do towards their mutual obligation requirement, and to involve
people who might not otherwise have a ‘way in’ to Free Software."
Overall another really good talk.