Monday, November 23, 2009

Initial Thoughts on Open Source Technology

My most recent open source venture has been to provide a utility that bridges the TV file format gap on Windows 7 machines. While this in and of itself isn’t all that interesting and was for my own benefit primarily, the pleasant and unintended consequence of contributing this code to the community was much larger than I expected.

After reviewing the feedback I’ve received on this project so far, I believe my initial thoughts can be characterized in three points:

  • People are more likely to provide constructive feedback in entertainment and non-commercial software when the venture is often of a personal nature, and the outcome is perceived to direct affect their enjoyment of technology.
    When people feel ownership of the problem, they are more likely to contribute to solving the problem.
  • The difficulty of extracting feedback from Line-of-Business software users stems from the reality that they’re too busy trying to get some specific task done, and don’t necessarily have time to comment on inane little details of what’s wrong with the software, simultaneous to their greater goals. The difference between software that ‘gets in the way’ vs. software that ‘provides a way’ must be interpreted within a context that includes what the person is trying to do and how much they understand about both their goals and the technology itself.
    People ignore the value of software if it is proposed in the wrong context or at the wrong time.
  • Open source software can be means of extracting the more general ‘concept’ feedback from a wide range of users, and can represent a source of valid measurement data on technology applicability and effectiveness without demanding the same initial financial or infrastructure costs that a full-on software release often can.
    While no feedback is completely ‘free’ (without some cost), open source is sometimes more affordable than traditional startup cycles.

Just thought I’d share my [currently evolving] hypotheses regarding the convergence of business and open source technology.

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