At Gaia Resources we will shortly be participating in the open source community in two ways:
- As an end user of open source applications, and
- As a developer of new open source projects (this is the new bit!).
As an end user
We are embracing open source for a number of reasons. As an end user, from solely a business perspective, it makes sense. If you’ve got a number of staff, paying thousands of dollars for each licence of desktop client software adds a lot to the establishment and operating cost of a business. Admittedly, the open source desktop clients are not up to the same standard as some of the commercial packages (eg. ArcGIS and MapInfo) but they are getting better.
Just for a minute consider software like Oracle, ESRI’s SDE, ArcServer, etc. Pricewise, these packages are outside of our budget – and outside the budget of many of our clients. However, we can do a lot of the things that this software will do with open source products. Postgres, PostGIS, MapServer, GeoServer, etc etc etc… thank goodness for open source products!
These open source products also don’t lock companies (and here I mean Gaia Resources as well as our clients), into having to use one company (i.e. whoever developed it) for every single change to the software, or to configure or even install it. While from a commercial developer perspective, locking companies into having to use you to do all the work they want might guarantee you work in the short term, it seems to annoy clients. It also goes against the open source philosophy that seems to be becoming more prevalent.
So we’re trying to use more open source products wherever it makes sense.
As a developer
We’ve been working on some open source projects for a little while behind the scenes. We’ve been doing our research and seeing who’s doing what out there, and talking to a lot of open source developers to learn from them about their experience. I’ve been impressed with the levels of technical expertise in the open source developer community. There are some amazing programmers and developers involved within the group, and there’s a good degree of enthusiasm.
But many of the open source software products are not being developed because someone asked for it, but rather because someone thought it would be cool to develop it. The end user seems to be occasionally forgotten, and development seems to occur for the sake of it. The result is a great application from a developer’s perspective, but not from and end user perspective.
We’re starting on several open source projects, some small, some large. As a commercial business, we can’t afford to forget our customer. It’s problematic for us to develop open source products – we need to cover our costs, so someone has to fund us to undertake the work. And those funding sources are hard to identify and find. But we’ve had some good wins lately, so I think that open source can work in commercial operations.
Let’s see how we go over the upcoming months.
Email me directly here.*
* We’ve deliberately avoided having comments on this blog because of spambots and stupidity. I saw something pretty cool the other day (at least in principle). Check out the Stupidfilter for an optimistic view into a future internet.