Commercial open source community strategies in 2009 and beyond

I wrote last week about the commercial open source business strategies that I expect to dominate in 2009.

The flipside to that is the commercial open source community strategy. You simply can’t have one without the other, and I expect community strategies will be a hot topic in 2009 and beyond.

Savio Rodrigues wrote recently that “By the end of 2008, virtually every successful open source vendor has a fairly tightly controlled development process and this hasn’t hurt their revenue growth.”

Based on my prediction that proprietary licensing strategies will be increasingly important in the next two years I am inclined to agree with him.

However, I am also inclined to agree with The Silent Penguin’s prediction that “companies offering open source products will realize that without a community – that actually loves and is enthusiastic about the software – they are nothing”.

The open source vendors that are successful in 2009 and beyond will be those that find a balance between the two positions. Nothing new there, but I suspect that this year we will see significant discussion on how to achieve and maintain that balance.

If the debate in 2008 was about what terminology to use to describe organic or non-organic communities, the focus in 2009 will be on identifying how and why these strategies are best utilized to support commercial objectives.

There was also some discussion of this over the Christmas period, sparked by Stephen O’Grady’s Q&A on whether MySQL’s dual-licensing strategy impacts its ability to generate contributions from its community of users.

Zack Urlocker indicates that MySQL’s strategy will be changing in the months ahead and I expect many vendors will be focusing attention on ensuring that they are making the most of their community engagement.

That could mean a developer community, but as noted previously, some vendors and products don’t actually lend themselves to a community of individual developers. I believe we will see more communities of vendors as companies pay greater attention to what “community” means to them.

As Joe Brockmeier noted last week, “following the open-source trend just because everyone is doing it isn’t good enough. To succeed, you need a well-thought-out community plan that details exactly what your organization needs and wants from its community, and how it can achieve those goals.”

I certainly expect to be exploring this area a lot more this year, both on the blog and in terms of The 451 Group’s formal research output.

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14 comments ↓

#1 ZUrlocker on 01.12.09 at 2:14 pm

I’m not sure that it’s a change in strategy per se. But I would say that we are trying to make MySQL more open to contributions than we have before, and we’re getting the help and headcount from Sun to do this.

–Zack

#2 Matthew Aslett on 01.13.09 at 5:10 am

Thanks Zack

#3 Boycott Novell » Links 12/01/2009: KDE 4.2 Previews, OpenOfice.org Rave on 01.12.09 at 10:49 pm

[…] Commercial open source community strategies in 2009 and beyond The open source vendors that are successful in 2009 and beyond will be those that find a balance between the two positions. Nothing new there, but I suspect that this year we will see significant discussion on how to achieve and maintain that balance. […]

#4 Savio Rodrigues on 01.12.09 at 11:54 pm

Hi Matt, nice post.

Yes, community, as you broadly define in the image, is important. But it’ll always be a balancing act between the community that loves the product and the vendor’s own revenue goals. It’s not going to be impossible to balance the two, but all it takes is a vocal few to cause complications 😉

#5 Matthew Aslett on 01.13.09 at 5:14 am

Thanks Savio

#6 Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for January 12 » Silicon Florist on 01.13.09 at 3:02 am

[…] Commercial open source community strategies in 2009 and beyond Via The 451 Group “I am also inclined to agree with The Silent Penguin’s prediction that ‘companies offering open source products will realize that without a community – that actually loves and is enthusiastic about the software – they are nothing.’” […]

#7 Joe Bachana on 01.13.09 at 9:36 pm

Another good post Matt. I think a major consideration for a healthy open source project in 2009 that will make it at the enterprise level is just how well the core developers of any given open source initiative embrace the entrance of well-organized professional service (PS) companies to deploy said solutions. There’s a bit of a love-hate thing going on there, since the founders and their core devotees of any initiative have poured a great deal of sweat into the solution they’ve reared, and they deserve to reap the benefits of their work. The PS companies are normally not constructed to give back to the initiatives in as robust a manner as the project originators, which adds to the tension.

As long as the PS companies bear this in mind when entering the game, they can contribute back with funding, sales and marketing support, and development contributions wherever possible. The added benefit all around is increasing the legitimacy of the open source project, since with any successful software application community there are professional services firms built specifically to implement these kinds of solutions at the enterprise level.

#8 Matthew Aslett on 01.14.09 at 10:50 am

Thanks Joe. I think you are right that PS firms can be valuable members of open source communities but perhaps haven’t helped themselves in their previous engagements. Perhaps the rise of vendor-dominated communities – such as Eclipse – will enable the PS companies to engage on terms they are more comfortable with.

#9 Jono Bacon on 01.14.09 at 2:45 pm

Hi all,

Fascinating article, Matt. I just wanted to inform you of something you may be interested in.

I am the Ubuntu Community Manager and I work to inspire, enthuse and enable the worldwide Ubuntu community. Today I announced a new book called the Art Of Community which will discuss the science of community management. The book will map out the road for a strong community and illustrate the concepts with stories, experiences and anecdotes.

It will be published by O’Reilly in summer and also available under a free Creative Commons license. You can see the announcement at http://www.jonobacon.org/2009/01/14/the-art-of-community/ – this is an excellent opportunity for a definitive work on the subject that is available in printed and online form.

I have also set up a community website around the book at artofcommunityonline.com – the site will have updates on the writing, and I will also be using the site to gather stories and experiences to merge into the book.

Thanks!

Jono

#10 Matthew Aslett on 01.15.09 at 4:32 am

Clocked it – will be included in CAOS Links on Friday, thanks Jono. Look forward to reading the ongoing discussion.

#11 Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for January 12 : Oregon Startup Blog on 01.15.09 at 9:08 am

[…] Commercial open source community strategies in 2009 and beyond Via The 451 Group “I am also inclined to agree with The Silent Penguin’s prediction that ‘companies offering open source products will realize that without a community – that actually loves and is enthusiastic about the software – they are nothing.’” […]

#12 451 CAOS Theory » From lone developer to tribal leader: open source community engagement 101 on 01.16.09 at 10:00 am

[…] open source community engagement 101 Matthew Aslett, January 16, 2009 @ 10:00 am ET Following my post about the importance of community management in 2009 here’s couple of interesting blog posts […]

#13 451 CAOS Theory » 451 CAOS Links 2009.01.30 on 01.30.09 at 1:11 pm

[…] management I predicted that community strategies will be a hot topic this year, and we continue to see some good articles […]

#14 451 CAOS Theory » The last word (for now) on Open Core on 03.02.09 at 12:46 pm

[…] last point takes us back to an old topic but one that I think will become integral this year and move beyond terminology to identifying how and why these […]