Free and Open vs Not – At a Glance

Steve Borsch weighs free & open against for-fee and closed. In in he brings up some great points – namely, if the problem you have is solved – good enough – by a hosted, for-pay service, then installing and setting up a “free”, open-source system isn’t worth it.

Personally, I’m not keen on SurveyMonkey’s presentation – and if I had need for a browser-based survey, I’d want to polish the presentation more than they permit easily. In that sense, tweaking PHPSurvey might be worth the effort. Same may be true of integrating into other systems. Same may be true if I, for whatever reason, don’t want the service provider to have my data.

Whichever solution I go with, it will take some amount of setup time, time to get familiar with the tool, and time to make it work the way I work. Question is – which will make the most sense for my specific problem.

Depends. If the problem doesn’t include customization or integration, then open source isn’t a good candidate. If the inverse is true, then an open source project will get you up and running faster than building from scratch.

I do agree with Steve, there’s a huge opportunity for organizations to take free, open-source projects, polish them up, make them dead-simple for a specific group of people to use, and sell access to the implementation back to the audience. Stikipad v. Instiki as wiki solutions come to mind. This transformation:

  1. Is dependent on the open source project’s license (GPL doesn’t allow this, MIT license does) and
  2. No longer makes it a free and open source project – it’s then a commercial product. Hopefully contributing back to the original project.

One thought on “Free and Open vs Not – At a Glance

  1. BTW, have you seen JotSpot lately? Talk about a company making it brain-dead-simple to use a wiki. If I was the gang at 37Signals, I’d take a page from the JotSpot playbook.

    Mainly because they’ve almost made JS into a platform with little application functionality that does two things:

    1) Gets someone productive *very* quickly
    2) Each app spawns a bunch of pages — as well as every user can spawn pages — and thus drives an upsell. The kicker? It feels icky in the same way that Network Solutions advertises, “Your own web site for $19.95 per month” and then you read that this is for “5 web pages”. Huh!?! What an incredible ripoff.

    Still, the amazing ease-of-use that JS has brought to the wiki is nothing short of incredible IMHO.


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