chs's blog

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Can one sponsor sustain a FOSS project on the long term?

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These days I am receiving quite a number of mails that ask the same question: If a FOSS project is sponsored by only one company or entity, do you think it's a healthy project?


In order to answer this question, we need to define some terms first. Let's start by the term "sponsor". By sponsor we mean an entity (company, NGO, Government) that provides certain types of resources. We can think of resources as roughly falling into three categories: infrastructure (website, tools, etc.), contributors (developers, engineers) and funding. Of course by providing infrastructure and contributors, the sponsor provides funding indirectly as well. But if we break the notion of sponsoring into these three different kinds of resources investment and sharing, we can already see that the answer is not as straightforward as it may have seem at first sight.

Defining Certifications for Open Source

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My company has recently launched an Open Source Certification service and I wanted to discuss why we think it provides real benefits to our customers. The way we design this program allows the certification to be a watermark for organizations that have led or are leading Open Source projects both behind and beyond their firewall. Ultimately, this certification can be awarded to entities whose operations or business model fully integrates Open Source.

Awarding certifications to customers can be tricky. You can fall in the trap of dilution, which essentially amounts to diluting the value of your expertise and your trademark by granting certifications too easily. You can also miss the fine line by essentially forbidding your customers to certify at any level by treating them like experienced hackers or community leaders.

Can good governance clash with business interests?

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Today I would like to mention an issue that is somewhat of a taboo inside the Free and Open Source world. There is a categoy of software that is developed, released and distributed in full compliance with the license (GPL, Apache, BSD, etc.) but that ends up locking in its users because of poor or absence of documentation and complete lack of access to software information. This adherence to software is thus not the apanage of proprietary software. Yet, sometimes some software that are released under a FOSS license are just as bad as proprietary software.  This issue can be addressed in two ways. 

Are GPL and mergers compatible?

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Have you noticed how much the GPL is both the most widely used Free and Open Source Software license and the most criticized license? Have you also noticed how much irrational or political the critiques about the GPL can be? I did. And what I like about this is that it is something that makes so many people and corporations jump in the air and get them all sweaty. It's not that I am a fan of Godwin's Law, but what the debates around the GPL show is nothing short of a sensational failure to understand how Free Software works. Okay, and now before you click away thinking I am about to lecture you on how the GPL is great, think about that bold assertion we (the FOSS contributors in a large sense) have all heard one day: You can't make money with software covered by the GPL. Wrong. Let me explain one possible, and quite compelling business case for the GPL. This story may have actually happened already.

A community to bind them all.

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It is my first post here on FossBazaar and I would like to thank its team for having invited and welcome me on board. You may recall that I had blogged earlier about FossBazaar in my regular blog, « Moved by Freedom, Powered by Standards » where I discuss topics such as Free and Open Source Software, Open Standards, Cloud Computing, etc.