On Becoming an Open Source Person
by William Grosso
Related link: http://news.com.com/2100-1012-993226.html?tag=lh
About a year ago, Scott McNealy said something that struck me as subtly wrong. I didn't think much about it at the time, but as I've been helping SDForum put together this year's Distinguished Speaker Series, I've been thinking about it more and more.
Here's what he said:
The world is down to two developer camps: One is .Net, the other is Sun ONE Java.
Ignoring the "Sun ONE" part as pure propaganda, it struck me as an interesting assertion. Where I live, there are two big camps and then a lot of little tents (it's hard to say
PHP doesn't matter. But it's also hard to say it's very important for most developers. It's a tent, not in either of the big camps).
Part of me immediately wondered "Hmmm. Am I part of the Java camp?" Most of me responded
immediately. "Well, duh. See those lines of code on the screen? They're in Java. So of
course I am."
But, still, part of me found the description a little disquieting.
So I'm sitting there talking to this real smart guy who's got a strategic job way up in
a Silly Valley titan and maybe we can do a deal, we're winding up and I said "Anything
else by way of questions about me?" and he said "Nah, I got you pretty well
triangulated, you're an Open Source Person."
Which, I guess, more and more of us are.
And that resonated with me a little bit as well. It didn't strike home, not totally, because I don't often contribute to open source projects. The
companies I work for are mostly closed source, and the few times I've contributed to an
open source project, it's more been out of I've got this bug fix sitting here and
it'd be nice if it was included in the next release than it was out of any sort of
spirit of camaraderie.
But still. In another sense, in the Scott McNealy sense, I am an open-source person. While I work on closed source applications, there's another question: in terms of mindshare, who sets the agenda in the technological part of my brain ?
By and large, it's the open source community. When I think of myself as a developer, I think of myself as someone who writes to an open source stack, using a large set of frameworks and libraries that were developed in the open. That's where my technological agenda is set. My code is, technically speaking, written in Java. But I pay far more attention to Apache than to Sun.
Scott McNealy was probably right in saying there are two large developer camps left. And he was probably very wrong when he identified one of them as "Sun ONE Java."
And all of which leads me to think that the debate about open-sourcing Java is a non-issue (what it means, and whether or not it happens, just doesn't matter). And that I need to understand open source, and how it impacts software development, a heck of a lot better than I do now.
Which leads to something I'm very excited to have helped put together. href="http://www.sdforum.org/dss">SDForum's
Distinguished Speaker series for the 2004-2005 season is coming together around the idea of the "Software Commons." The goal is to have 9 distinguished speakers talk about the common ground that's being built in the open source community and to reflect on what it means and how it's changed the way we all think of our craft. The series
starts with Larry Lessig on September 23 and continues on through a list of incredible speakers including
Jason Hunter, Steve Weber, Craig Newmark, Guido van Rossum,
and Howard Rheingold.
Sandy Rockowitz and Bebo White, the chairs of this series, have done a fantastic job in putting it together.
Are you an open source person?
it's an open source world
i agree with you that there are two developer camps. But i define the camps a little differently. The first side is the propriety world (which includes Microsoft and their .Net, as well as Sun ONE Java). The other side is the open source world. The world of the proprietary aims to design and build and control the system from the top down. They have a firm belief that this makes software better. The open source developer camp aims to do just the opposite. To design and build and not at all control the whole system, because we equally have a firm belief that our development environment is the best way to go. That an environment which is open will likely produce more interesting things than any closed environment ever would.
it's an open source world
I agree. The choice is between open source and proprietary. Except for one thing. The only proprietary initiatives out there worth choosing between belong to Microsoft. So its an open source vs Microsoft world.
"Versus" is a trap
A lot of people seem to assume that if there are two camps left, then there is a competition between the camps, and they must engage in a titanic struggle (and the fate of the world is somehow wrapped up in this battle).
"Versus" is a trap
I agree. This reminds me the Coke vs Pepsi wars of yesteryear. People were told that when it came to soft-drinks they had a choice between two. If, for some reason or the other, you did not like Coke you were automatically a Pepsi person. And vice versa. No other options were offered. I for one drink Water.