Wanting the consequences of what we want

Sometimes we say inane things because we want something for nothing. Dumb.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
3 min read

I read a few posts today that made me think that some people have put their brains on idle while their mouths (or, rather, fingers) did the thinking for them. I understand: I do the same thing. Regular readers of this blog will know that I do it...regularly.

One post criticized this blog for having a partial feed. How can a blog devoted to openness have a partial feed??? This conveniently overlooks that CNET relies on page views/advertisements to pay the bills, and so needs people to click through. Were CNET to give everything away for free (as in no advertisements/no money attached to its content), there would be no more CNET. While TechCrunch might like this, millions of others who log billions of pageviews on CNET each year would not be as happy.

In another turn, Kris Buytaert didn't like my post suggesting that open-source vendors should expect loyalty and a mutually advantageous relationship from their system integration partners, and institute policies to help foster this. I wish I could understand Kris' argument, but I can't. The "pay me if you love me but don't really need me" model doesn't work (i.e., Support only). Period.

Sometimes we don't really want the consequences of what we want. We want open source to be all about peace, love, and freedom. It's not. At least, not to the extent that some of us (myself included) would like.

In the real world, customers pay only for what they absolutely must. Support is a "must" for some enterprises at some period in time, but it's not forever. As Jon Williams, then CTO of Kaplan Test, said, the more experienced the company grows with an open-source project, the less likely it will pay for support (or anything else).

We want everything free, but we don't seem to realize that models that don't require payment are doomed. Maybe we can all rely on Googlesque advertising models, but what a sorry world that will be if you have to wade through advertisements when clicking through your CRM system. Besides, most of us don't like advertisements, anyway, and find ways around them (like Adblock Plus).

Sorry, guys. Everything can't be free, either in terms of cost or in terms of effort or in terms of annoyance (at looking at advertisements). Someone, somewhere, has to pay.

The consequence of that is more open source. More great software. More great vendors. More great ecosystems around products, filled with system integrators who both contribute cash and code to their open-source projects of choice.

Money makes it happen. We might like to wish that open source didn't require money to make it thrive, but it does.

So, rather than wishing away the money-driven requirements of commercial open source (and it's just about all commercial today, including Apache, Linux, MySQL, etc.), try contributing to novel business models that will give you what you want (more free software, as in freedom) while still providing what vendors need (less free software, as in cost).