Saturday, January 24, 2009

Open source software is self service software...

Jeff Attwood at Coding Horror makes an interesting point about open source software being "self service" software. That immediately struck a chord with me as a I saw his point straight away. 

But he didn't quite mean what I expected him to say. What he meant was that participating on software projects is a self service enterprise and thus leaders of open source projects need to make their projects as easy as possible to serve yourself on. There are particular issues that go with any kind of self service.

But the same rings true for _users_ of open source software, and those users are exactly that, self service users. With open source software the users help themselves, they fix their own bugs, get their own help and basically make their own way. They do not rely on a commercially driven entity in order gain value from the software they are using.

And I think companies thus need to take this into account when they're considering whether so use open source software. At cinema's in South Africa they have self service kiosks for buying movie tickets (I don't know if they have them elsewhere in the world) - and I really appreciate these. I do not have to wait in the queue, I also get to have my pick of where I want to sit. 

However, it is only particular people that are able to use these kiosks. They are not everyone's cup of tea. You need to be technologically savy, and need to be willing and able to back yourself. iow, to try new things and have the confidence and where withall to see it through.

But let me say that not all open source is as self service as "self service". Some open source initiatives are supported by commercial entities, and some open source applications look and behave like the closed source equivalents - OpenOffice and Apache Web server being two simple examples.

In general though, using open source is analogous to using the self service option, when presented, and seeing things in that light help to shed light on some the challenges and value adds of open source software.

1 comment:

Peter said...

This is still very true, but gone are the days when you have to compile your own kernel! We tried Hudson recently and were pleasantly surpised but the fact that it was actually quite easy to get up and running - we expected more do-it-yourself than we got, especially for .NET projects. It's still not an out-of-the-box setup, but as you've said, you expect that when you go for an open source option.