Posts Tagged ‘Open Source’

Google and Liferay at Openmind’06

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

I’m in Tampere, Finland, attending Openmind’06.

Chris Dibona
from Google opened up by talking about how Google does things the open source way. He goes on to show some pictures from the various generations of their server rooms, concluding that PC architecture might not be the most reliable platform around. Hardware stinks, so you have to build a software layer that provides stability. Google runs Linux based servers and they use various OS libraries, languages, compilers, web toolkits and other things to achieve what they do today. They use due dilligence for Open Source, to see where a particular chunk of code comes from and if it raises any red flags, they will deal with it.

According to Dibona, Google wouldn’t exist without Open Source. It’s not about the price (Google has all the money), it’s about having control and ownership. Open Source enables you to control your own company and be adapting anf flexible to market conditions.

He shows examples of map mashups where people combine google maps to databases they might find useful. Google has no interest to provide information on where for example universities in Sweden are located or where to get best ice cream, but they are interested to solve the hard problems like mapping and let people innovate on top of that by bringing data in from various locations. Some discussion emerges on the trust issues of Web 2.0 providers. Dibona answers, that you have to deserve the trust to be an API provider. They are willing to fight US governments search results etc. to protect their users.

I asked about Youtube’s copyright problems and no surprise, they don’t really worry too much about copyright issues related to Youtube. I think their company was founded on taking advantage of the gray area anyway, by making money out of content made by others.

He asserts that web standards are important but there are cases where customer requirements get higher priority. The reason their front page is not completely standard-compliant is because that enables them to save terabytes of bandwidth and bandwidth is important if you want to offer a reliable service.

Brian Chan and Bryan Cheung from Liferay talked about Web 2.0, how we move from top-down software delivery (like platforms and other one-way of doing things) to an ecosystem of different approaches and solutions, just like a conversation. Open source is like a conversation while proprietary software was more like a broadcast.

They work on Liferay, a Java-based portal solution that currently has highest number of downloads per month from the Java alternatives. For them a portal is a cross-road, rather than the end (Rome) in itself: it adds value on top of the various roads (services). They themselves are also in the cross-roads: large enterprises still look for stable release cycles and robust services. Combining the chaotic dynamic development approach with a stable one is a challenge. Redhat is a good example of having community-supported (to drive innovation) and company-supported (to drive stability) versions of their solution.

Open Source enables people to try everything. It’s a kind of “Rice rocket” approach to application development: start from a cheap “car” and use lots of resources to tinker and modify it.

[UPDATE] What really struct me about Liferay is the ethical grounds by which they operate. Their philosophy is ROG, return of giving. They invest part of their revenue in charities. What also comes up with their case examples is that they want to make a positive impact in the living of others. With 150% increase in revenue every year since 2000, ROI is clearly present. What is better than ROI + giving? Maybe a theoretical economic model needs to be formulated for ROG to spread it among corporations that want to make a difference.

IP in an Open Source Society; who is paying who?

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Kebede Mergia asks me the question, who is paying who in the Open Source society?

Unfortunately it’s impossible for me to answer this open question in the length it deserves, but I can point to a few resources on which I build my own understanding of the topic.

Intellectualy property and the societal concept of Open Source.

To understand the societal implications of Open Source, you need to understand the difference of Free Software and Open Source.

Free Software, the concept put forward by Richard Stallman long before the term Open Source was invented, tackles the freedom aspect. This is well documented in the book by Mr. Stallman, entitled “Free as in Freedom”, available online.

To understand intellectual property, there is probably no better source to turn into other than Lawrence Lessig. In the roots of the philosophy of Free Software there is the requirement to understand the importance of free culture, how it’s preserved and how it develops further based on earlier generations. IP can be an enabling or disabling factor depending of how it’s used. This is further examined in Lawrence Lessig’s book, “Free Culture”, available online.

While Free Software is about freedom, Open Source is about practical use value of the source code and the shared production model. It was also invented to satisfy as a term the business use of free software, as FS until 1998 was politically very colorful, almost like a religion and as such not very suitable for business types. The practical use value and the birth of Open Source is well documented in the book by Eric S. Raymond, “Cathedral and the Bazaar”, available online.

The financial flows, in other words, who pays who.

Yochai Benkler coined the term commons-based peer production, which examines the economics behind Open Source development model. He analyses this concept in his paper, “Coase’s Penguin and the Nature of the Firm”, available online. This concept is furter investigated in his book, “Wealth of Networks”, also available online.

He gives much credit to Ronald Coase, who invented the transaction costs theory. For anyone who wants to understand the transaction costs in any business, should look in the work done by Ronald Coase, further improved by Oliver Williamson.

The absolutely central thing to understand here is that production logic of the industrial era is changing from centralized (central IP control, centralized production, controlled distribution, few developers) to decentralized (decentralized production, distributed costs, lots of developers, IP in the commons). The driver here is that as you benefit from the commons, you are likely to contribute something back to the commons. This is enabled by the licensing, which often requires that you give the next person the same rights you received in the first hand. It’s a gift economy but driven by economical benefits. It supports free markets by creating an open market, rather than a closed market. Bruce Perens, the author of Open Source Definition has also written about the economics of Open Source.


Graham Attwell wrote a follow up, correctly underlining that Open Source and Open Content is not only driven by capitalism alone, but other values are at stake as well.  Preserving and improving culture has never been driven by sheer value propositions alone. We all have dreams, stories, ideas, conversations and joys to share, and that’s what we are doing with openness in heart.

Make your own Linux penguin

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

TUX pattern 150 Make your own Linux penguin
I’ve written before that as time goes by, we will see distributed Open Source development methodology to emerge in contexts other than content or source code. Some time ago we had free beer, now we have free penguins.. umm soft-toys. This might as well be the ultimate end of the accessorizing business model of Open Source icon wink Make your own Linux penguin

Sharing nicely

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

[Note to self:]Read the latest from Yochai Benkler at some point. Also, the Economist reports as well. Coase Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm was excellent and inspiration for many of my latest thoughts. See also Other publications.

FLOSSE Posse, a new blog focused on Open Source in education

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

I have created a new weblog which focuses on commentary on Free/Libre and Open Source Software in Education. It’s called…


It’s a group weblog consisting of some members of Free and Open Source in Education Association. We also accept guest bloggers.

Our first mission is to do digital audio recordings (podcasts) and analysis of various people in the field of Open Source in education. This is to systematically bring together ideas from people who work on various fields. Open Source in education is a fragmented field. There are certain online communities and mailing lists where people gather but so far not a single weblog has chosen to focus on these issues alone. If you know about one, let me know.

This also means that I’m talking more about Open Source in education over there and the business of Open Source right here.

The first interview is with Alan Levine. I think it came out fairly well. You can hear my compositions in the beginning and in the end of the interviews.

We are starting a conversation here, hop in.