A blog for the enterprise open source community
Sometimes a developer community isn’t the answerMatthew Aslett, August 12, 2008 @ 6:26 am ET
Our conversation covered a lot of ground, including his reasons for leaving Sun (he didn’t go into detail but suffice to say he’s working a business idea), the future of the database market (more choice, more horizontal scaling, more use of specialist databases), the future of PostgreSQL (as a development platform), the level or authorization afforded to the Drizzle project, and the future of Sun.
We finished up our conversation talking about the attempts of one particular vendor (not Sun) to build a community of developers around its recently open sourced product. Given Josh’s involvement in the PostgreSQL community and the recent assertion that open source is “all about community” some may be surprised to find that Josh was arguing against the company putting its effort into building a developer community.
Why? It comes down to the strengths and weaknesses of a certain project. For those that are developed in the open like Linux and PostgreSQL, the developer community is vital. For those that are mainly developed by the employees of a vendor, it is less important.
Some may point out that vendors that fail to exploit the community development model fully are failing to enjoy the full benefits of open source and are keeping their development and marketing costs higher than necessary. Josh argued that idea that development costs are always lower for open source projects is a fallacy and that, depending on the vendor, the benefits do not always outweigh the costs.
He argued that for the vendor in question it would be doubtful whether an expansion of the developer community would contribute meaningful benefits and greater commercial adoption and that it might actually distract the company’s attention away from serving its core customer base.
The company would be better served, he believed, in targeting ISVs and SIs and on growing its partner community, encouraging them to take advantage of the availability of the code to increase their expertise in, and the overall quality of, the product.
Maybe the vendor in question is the exception, but it was interesting to hear someone who is so involved in a community project arguing against attempting to build a development community for the sake of placating the criticism of rivals.
Overall the message to vendors is that what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all. That and the fact that ‘community’ does not always have to mean ‘developer community’. Vendors should play to their strengths rather than following the crowd.
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