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Culture

Novell and open source's long memory

Novell keeps wanting to reinvent itself without reinventing itself.

Dana Blankenhorn has an excellent follow-up today to his post yesterday taking Novell to task for not getting its corporate act together. His primary complaint - that Novell keeps trying to spin itself into relevance, rather than letting its business speak for itself - is appropriate. Novell's PR didn't agree.

To which Dana responds:

I have long believed credibility to be the coin of the realm in open source, far more so than in a proprietary operation. Trust is needed to build a community, to draw contributions, and to gain commitments for enterprise installations. It's as important as capital, certainly more important than marketing.

Proprietary firms can end contracts, change contracts, close off upgrades, and that's business. Open source firms can't, because what's dropped can easily be forked, and because they rely so heavily upon the kindness of strangers....

[Hence, open source public relations professionals need to recognize that history matters....] Sorry, folks. New rule. Open source doesn't forget.

If Novell's Linux business continues to grow, and it does this without the crutch of Microsoft, people will forgive and forget...slowly. In the meantime, Novell can't pretend that it's loved by the open-source community. The Microsoft deal did far too much damage to its credibility to expect that.

Novell's best way forward is forward, yet always remembering its past to see why some (like I) refuse to give it full kudos until it earns them. I think it can. It just needs to stop lobotomizing its credibility along the way.