open source projects
continues to be a lot of hype and mysticism around open source,
both in the technical and business world. Those entrepreneurs
and technologists who wish to be ahead of the curve will have
to catch up with the trends, writes MOHAN
readers of this column are probably acquainted with the fact
that my interests in the field of technology are diverse and
eclectic, and so are the topics I pick for this column. Thanks
to the editor of Express Computer, I get a clean slate every
week and sit and gather thoughts on what I think are topical
issues; sometimes I delve deeper into a topic in which case
I write a series of columns. The open source movement is a
topic close to my heart, something I have dwelt on more than
a few occasions in the past. On mentioning ‘Open Source’ the
image of a David versus Goliath comes to mind of most people,
especially given the rivalry between Linux and Microsoft.
I, like a few analysts, like to take a more holistic view
of the open source movement since the real drivers behind
widespread usage are corporate leaders, not just renegade
tech staff at IT shops.
I was intrigued by the title of a book Managing Open Source
Projects in our local library that I happened to pick up a
few weeks ago. As I began skimming through the chapters, I
was captivated by the breath of topics covered by Jan Sandred,
the author. Though the title of the book is a misnomer—it
would have been better to have titled it ‘All you wanted to
know about Open Source’—it is definitely worth reading, especially
if you happen to be associated with an open source project.
The book begins with an ‘Open Source Primer,’ basically an
introduction to open source; and the first few chapters continue
this theme by giving a background on the development of Unix,
tools on the Internet and an introduction to the philosophy
behind the open source movement. The chapters on the Internet
economy and business terms dwell on open source licensing
legal and commercial issues. The section business terms also
talks a bit about the dichotomy between the diverging commercial
interests and the drive of volunteers.
I was looking forward to gaining insight into specifics of
open source management in the chapters on ‘Managing Virtual
teams’ and ‘managing distributed open source projects.’
However, I realised that there weren’t any unambiguous takeaways
since the chapters dealt more on regular team dynamics, networking
of organizations, etc, something that is already taking hold
of our work lives with or without the advent of open source.
One explanation for this could be that though developers have
been using open source tools and technologies in projects
for a while, selling services bundling open source development
is still at a nascent stage.
Having read this far, the reader is probably wondering who
the real audience of this book is. Though the title indicates
that it is about managing open source projects, would recommend
it more as a primer on what open source software really is.
It would definitely be worth the effort to glance over the
book, especially if you happen to be a business leader or
manager tasked with scanning the horizon for trends in open
There continues to be a lot of hype and mysticism around open
source, both in the technical and business world, and this
book certainly attempts to clear up some of the fundamentals.
Along with technical journals, the mainstream business media,
including Wall Street Journal, Business Week, et al, have
been regularly running stories on the open source movement.
Those entrepreneurs and technologists who wish to be ahead
of the curve will do well to catch up with the trends shaping
On an opportunity front, one thought that came to mind as
I was reading the chapter on managing distributed open source
projects was the need for software service companies to grab
the opportunity to consult with clients considering the open
source option. Most software service companies are yet to
jump onto the open source bandwagon in a big way. By this
I do not mean to imply that service companies are not at all
implementing open source projects; what I mean to imply is
that they are not pushing it as an independent offering to
their clients proactively. Organisations and entrepreneurs
who are able to guide clients through the SWOT—Strength, Weakness,
Opportunity and Threat— analysis and help them prepare a roadmap
to embark on an open source movement are going to be in demand.
When this happens, the book on Managing Open Source Projects
will have to be rewritten.
(Book reference: Managing Open Source Projects: A Wiley Tech
Brief by Jan Sandred)