The Idea Dude


Friday, August 17, 2007

11 things you should know about open source

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Explains why this blog went MIA this week. Being a single parent (for 2 weeks) plus an unhealthy work load has this dude exhausted.

However, every cloud has a silver lining... being immersed in code all week, you can't help by being philosophical about open-source. Here's my wisdom scraped from fresh wounds.

  • Good: it's free
  • Bad: you'll probably do more customization to fit your needs, than you would for a bought product

  • Good: new features come up through the community pretty fast, you don't have to wait for quarterly upgrades which you probably have to pay for
  • Bad: the roadmap for the product isn't clear, no clear product plan, usually unpredictable

  • Good: if you need something, chances are someone had the same problem and already wrote a fix or an extension
  • Bad: the code or the feature is not always the way you think it should be written

  • Good: you write less code
  • Bad: you inherit both good and bad code with little or no standards across contributions

  • Good: you get to spend more time solving the business problem than building infrastructure
  • Bad: end-users make more demands because they know you can customize at will

  • Good: this is no critical point of failure because the community supports and extends it collectively
  • Bad: if you have to dig into the code, there is no-one within the company who can fast track you because it wasn't written internally

  • Good: lots of fixes and modifications available
  • Bad: hard to keep track of all the fixes and modifications, maintenance is an issue

  • Good: allows you to try with no cost other than time
  • Bad: end-users assume that the prototype you have built quickly is the product

  • Good: cost and time savings
  • Bad: wrong expectations are usually set because it is not zero cost, there is still the cost to learn and to extend/customize

  • Good: collective responsibility results in best of breed
  • Bad: could be bad if there is no initial strong consistent architecture

  • Good: lots of support from the community
  • Bad: no cost effective paid support if the community can't solve your problem

    Bottom line: if you have a finite budget, have savvy technical people on board, open source can cut your costs by a factor of 5 in time and money.

    The best part it allows you to fail fast.

    Blogger The Idea Dude said...

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Failing fast means I can try stuff out and find out whether it's something we want to keep or lose. Because we are amenable to trying things out, we will invariably find the best of breed.

    With paid software, because there's money involved, you have to deal with budgets, approvals, training, etc. And if it's not the right thing, it's harder to throw it away because of the investment made. I wouldn't want to be the guy who tells the CEO, the $250k for a content management system isn't working.


    9:26 PM  

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