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02 March 2010


Jack Repenning

> It would be interesting to consider the difference between projects with
> enormous inbound code contribution ... versus projects managed more
> tightly by a company...

There's a line being drawn, here, between two kinds of open-source projects. I'm strongly tempted to call them "Community" open source vs. "Commercial" open source. Then, I think, "no, that will make a lot of people defensive." Then I think, "well, yeah, that's kind of the point."

This all suggests that a key metric, perhaps the key metric, is not "who uses it," but rather "who gives back to it?"

Stephen Walli

Thanks for the comment, Jack. I'm not sure that it's the key metric. I think it would be interesting for someone with time to investigate and access to something like Ohloh's data to look at churn numbers across a wide variety of open source software projects over time for patterns. Do community projects (Linux, Apache, Eclipse) churn differently than corporate run projects (MySQL, OpenSolaris, Alfresco)? Do they churn faster? Is there a way to measure breadth of deployment? I'm not thinking desktops or server counts for Linux, so much as embedding as a component (printers, TVs, mobile handsets, server products, etc.). Is the "vibrancy" of community (% codebase churn and # developers and relationship between the two) a useful metric?

Greg Satell

Thanks for this. It's extremely lucid and helpful.

I think the bad name open source gets is a case of positive externalities being diffuse while the negative externalities are concentrated on a few with the deep pockets to make an issue out of it.

People wouldn't contribute if they didn't see value in doing it.

- Greg

Sandro Groganz


awesome blog post!



Great post Stephen: a historically complex issue explained in an easy way, just clever. Congrats.

Back in 2007, I gave a speech on the model of free software as being the innovative disruption itself, but I like much more how you explain it, mine was not so specific and clear:

"The disruptive business model isn't about Linux so much as the ability for corporations to do collaborative development at the component/complement level in a "frictionless" well-managed Internet-enabled community. [...] Linux is a much stronger disruptive business solution as a way to handle a particular sourcing problem."

PS: I also love Christensen's work :-)

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