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Steps to an Open Source strategy – Baselining

The first step an organization needs to take in establishing an Open Source strategy is to baseline the current landscape. Now to be perfectly clear: many people will jump on this step and “pooh pooh” about how unnecessary it is because they

  • Already know where Open Source is being used (they may think they do)
  • Already know which areas within the organization are suitable for Open Source adoption
  • Already understand IP issues and licensing implications of Open Source software in use

However, regardless of what they think they may know – they probably don’t. And if the corporation has carried out a prior assessment – that was probably in 2003 or 2004 when they were benchmarking Linux usage. At least I’ve had enough of those reports waved at me, together with a remark as to the fact that “and we have a few Apaches and MySQLs running”.

So what are the typical goals of this first step? Well it’s to pull together enough information about the internal adoption of Open Source that you can present the complete picture to the various people and departments you need to engage on the next step.

  • What is the organizations understanding of what exactly Open Source is and does that understanding differ within the organization. Make sure that includes asking around in departments responsible for software procurement, legal or license management
  • Where is Open Source being used, why is it being used there and which components or products are in use
  • Where is Open Source not being used and why not
  • Does the organization maintain a repository of Open Source components and/or information
  • Who are the Open Source evangelists already active within the organization (and where are the opponents)
  • Where Open Source is being used – how are those projects/installations fielding support issues
  • Gauge internal and external “pressure” on using Open Source (joint ventures are a good example of when Open Source pressure can come in from the outside)
  • Are there any “sweet spots” already identifiable for potential Open Source usage
  • and many more

The result of asking these questions is that people within the organization will begin to understand that there is more to it than just knowing about the odd Apache installation.

Predictions: Open Source Business Readiness Ratings – FAIL

A few years ago, SpikeSource, Carnegie Mellon West Center for Open Source Investigation and others decided that it was time to “gauge” the “readiness” of Open Source solutions for business usage. At the time even Tim O’Reilly was bullish on the whole idea:

..the initiative is one more signpost on the road that open source has taken from the hacker fringe into the mainstream of the technology business.

Now it seems that the initiative has failed – as Tim writes in the comments of the above post.

As I wrote at the beginning of 2006, some companies had this strange “vision” that they could suddenly become the Open Source service vendor overnight. Instead of looking to Open Source projects and people to build their business (as this company did and does for example), they created smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that really, they didn’t understand anything about Open Source.


The Palm Pre in HD

At the weekend I sat down and watched the HD video of the Palm Pre keynote – and really enjoyed it. Not only the phone but also the style of the presentation – very Apple’ish. If the phone can deliver on what was shown during the keynote then I might just delay getting a new mobile.

The Germans are leaving

Interesting times.

In November, Lars Hinrichs announced he was stepping down as CEO of the successful business social network Xing.

Today, Stephan Uhrenbacher announces on Twitter that he is stepping down as CEO of Qype, to be replaced by Stephen Taylor (formerly managing director at Yahoo). Stephan is moving to the board of directors and focussing on product strategy.

Now Lars and Stephan wouldn’t happen to be planning on doing something together now – would they?

Predictions again – IT freelancers

My love of people predicting the future continues. I’ve just read an article on the German business community Xing. The article quotes a survey about what lies in store for 2009 when it comes to IT freelance work.

The article on Xing begins roughly:

The sky is falling. The main topics occupying current media are the financial crisis and the economic downturn. One black day follows the next. We have written a survey that details how the crisis will affect the Austrian IT project market in 2009.

I’ll save you the details (you can download the full German article here) – let’s skip right to the summary – which I’ve translated for your enjoyment:

In closing, it can be said that 2009 will not fulfill all the wishes of IT freelancers, but, there is no real cause for a lot of pessimism. So you could say the year will be “mixed”.


I remember reading somewhere that the most accurate way of predicting the weather for tomorrow is to say it will be the same as today.

Predictions – or why nobody knows anything about the future

It is currently fun watching so called experts making predictions on the way things will develop. My favorite is an online service that monitors the price of oil and especially heating-oil. Every day they have a new blog post with the current average price in Germany and also with a prediction on how the price will develop over the next month or so.

Only a week or so ago they were predicting that the price of oil would drop further and that the middle to end of January would be an ideal time to fill up the tanks.

Then Israel marches into Gaza and Russia gets into a gas row with its neighbors – effectively cutting off Russian gas supplies to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey today.

Today, my oil-price oracle is telling me that we can expect a massive increase in the price of heating-oil (it has already gone up about 10% this year). They are now expecting prices to drop again “in the Spring”.

Unless of course, something else happens.

I recommend reading Taleb’s “The Black Swan” – a really thought-provoking book that shows how much things are influenced by improbable and unpredictable events that have yet to happen.

Does it help me know when to buy heating-oil? Of course not.