In this installment of In the Trenches, we get back to the core of any open source company: development. Taylor Dondich is a senior developer at Groundwork. Groundwork is an interesting company because it builds on the popular Nagios monitoring solution. As such, Taylor's work involves a careful balancing act between contributing to the Nagios community while also building out Groundwork's offering around it.
I caught up with Taylor to discover how he balances the two.
Name, company, title, and what you actually do
Taylor Dondich, Team Leader, Groundwork Open Source, Inc. My role in the company is to develop the front-end technologies that present our product to the user. However, I also develop some back-end technologies and act as a technical resource for network monitoring with Nagios and other tools as well as act as an open source evangelist in the company and outside.
Do you work remotely or in an office with co-workers?
I come into our San Francisco office three days out of the week to have head-to-head time with other software engineers and with others in the company. The remaining time I work from home and focus on deliverables that don't need attention from others.
If you've had a similar role in a proprietary software company, how does your current role compare? Similarities? Differences?
I've never had another role in a proprietary software company, but, I've dealt with many open source communities.
How familiar were you with open source before you joined your current company?
Personally, I've written a few open source packages, one being nfoshare which is a knowledge base solution (now defunct). But my biggest pride is Fruity, a web based nagios configuration tool. It's how Groundwork found me and why I now work for them. I've also contributed to the FreeBSD project and acted as help in various community forums.
Why did you join an open source vendor?
See above and below.
How long did it take you to adjust to an open source operational mode?
As a commercial open source company, we attempt to act and function as such but sometimes it's hard to break away from the traditional software production process and work with the radical way that open source communities perform. As far as how long it took me to adjust to an open source operational mode, not long at all. It's what I'm used to. I find non-open source technology limiting and antiquated. The ideology of open source intrigues me and the prospect of finding a valued business model around it is great. I write free software and my family gets to eat. Fantastic.
What do you think open source companies could learn from proprietary vendors?
I think the question to ask is not what open source companies can learn from proprietary vendors. It's what they can learn from us. Find out the ways we're cutting costs and producing more valuable software in a quicker time frame. It's true that proprietary vendors may have a head start in regards to some features or the way things are done, but it's never too late for an open source community to come by and break the mold. It's even better if that community has a commercial backing of some sort.
It could be that we're all hyper-religious about this open source stuff, but even I'm starting to be surprised by the consistent answers on this last question. Does open source have things to learn from proprietary software development and distribution? Sure. But most people feel that it's the proprietary world that needs to catch up and figure out the 21st Century of software. Thanks for sharing, Taylor.