An Open Source Evangelist Explains Open Source
Last updated: 7/18/2002; 5:49:10 AM
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An Open Source Evangelist Explains Open Source

My background is in commercial software development in a propietary environment.  Despite this background I have become a passionate advocate for Open Source in general.  There are a number of reasons for this, each of which are detailed below.  This document, written as a set of questions and answers, evolved from a chat session with the creator as I tried to explain to him what this is all about.


travisdu: Scott…you around?
fuzzygroup: I will be in about 20 minutes. Just awoke. tty after shower and caffeine hit of the morning.
travisdu: ok
travisdu: morning
fuzzygroup: Morning
travisdu: bleary eyed?
fuzzygroup: The vb code – how did you actually create it ? And what windows version is it for ?
travisdu: lol….XP……
travisdu: via a piece of software called…
fuzzygroup: Ah.
fuzzygroup: WinBatch ?
travisdu: macro scheduler
fuzzygroup: ok. Sec for more on that.
travisdu: im begining to realize that….
travisdu: using a software instead of knowing the base language limits my ability to….
fuzzygroup: Yup
travisdu: correctly create what i want and impliment it.
fuzzygroup: Yup.
fuzzygroup: If it's php you want to learn
travisdu: lol
fuzzygroup: then I can help a lot
fuzzygroup: since I'm training my partner already.
travisdu: php i may end up looking at yes….since
travisdu: that seems to be the consensus best and..
travisdu: agile.
fuzzygroup: Well.
fuzzygroup: Let me make a suggestion.
travisdu: ok
fuzzygroup: Why don't you tell me what you want to do
fuzzygroup: and then lets see if php is the right language
fuzzygroup: i.e. match the investment to the problem so to speak
travisdu: lol ok….i think its not worth the effort, like hitting a mouse with a sledgehammer when a trap would do fine.
travisdu: im playing with start page exchanges is all.
fuzzygroup: do you know the url to the scripting tool so i can look up a few things ?
fuzzygroup: Ok
fuzzygroup: So basically you want to customize your web sites ?
fuzzygroup: (note – I'll make a blog entry out of this most likely)
travisdu: no no….do you know what a start page exchange is?
travisdu: thats fine.
fuzzygroup: no i guess not
travisdu: when you start up your browser…
travisdu: you have a predefined start page.
fuzzygroup: ok
travisdu: any way these exchanges have poped up around this principle…..
fuzzygroup: ah.
fuzzygroup: want an off the cuff comment based on looking at this very quickly ?
travisdu: shoot
fuzzygroup: What this seems to be about is a "easy" way to get trafffic.
fuzzygroup: When I was a vp of engineering at a dot com
fuzzygroup: our ceo wanted this type of stuff desperately
fuzzygroup: I'm not certain that it's possible.
travisdu: correct…..a very poor quality form of traffic….
travisdu: they are quite successfull so far but the traffic they attract is of….
travisdu: fairly dismal quality.
fuzzygroup: Really ?
fuzzygroup: Yup.
travisdu: the thing is that they have been so successfull…..
fuzzygroup: question
travisdu: sure.
fuzzygroup: How do you know they are successful?
fuzzygroup: (little known but true - the dot coms faked traffic all the time)
travisdu: The number of webmasters that are using the exchanges numbers in the hundreds of thousands.
travisdu: is in the top 100 on Alexa
fuzzygroup: ok. but how do you know that ? Ah.
fuzzygroup: Hmmmm
fuzzygroup: i tend to be very cyncial on this stuff.
travisdu: i am as well….
fuzzygroup: It strikes me that blogging gets you more traffic and of more qualit
fuzzygroup: y but the committment has to be there.
travisdu: in fact i would say they are almost worthless…
fuzzygroup: i.e. you need to make a blog and make it daily.
travisdu: i agree….
travisdu: I set up some of these exchanges for one of my pages….
fuzzygroup: So, if it was me, I'd reorient my web marketing around a blog and see what happens
travisdu: and am getting about 400 uniques a day…
fuzzygroup: Ah. Interesting.
travisdu: the thing is that….
travisdu: each person viewing my page….
fuzzygroup: Do you know the duration of traffic i.e.
fuzzygroup: do they ever go deeper from the home page ?
travisdu: only stays for a very short time….
travisdu: hold on let me get this out…
fuzzygroup: Ah.
travisdu: so what is happening is that….
fuzzygroup: Have you reverse dns'd the traffic ever ?
fuzzygroup: sec
travisdu: the exchanges are becoming about as worthwhile as your average persons spam.
travisdu: k
fuzzygroup: Ah.
travisdu: im going to give you an url that will show you what i mean visually.
travisdu: this should make it obvious
travisdu: the top frame controls the display of the bottom frame as well as giving a certian time period for viewing.
travisdu: most pages are for webmaster "opportunities" related to biz ops and such.
fuzzygroup: Ah.
travisdu: In any case ive been working on some….
fuzzygroup: Ok. Before I forget I need the url for Macro Scheduler.
travisdu: ahh ok….
fuzzygroup: Ok. I need to go offline for a bit and focus on thsi. You around in an hour or so ?
travisdu: yeah ill be around….
travisdu: by the way…
travisdu: I just found a site that blows me away….
travisdu: mind you i have a really high bull meter.
travisdu: so i dont say that often.
travisdu: ill be around.
fuzzygroup: k. ttyl.
travisdu: politically incorrect website idea……www.nakedhomeless. com
fuzzygroup: cool.
travisdu: what do you think? should i run with it?
fuzzygroup: why not ?
travisdu: lol…sorry my brain wanders at these hours.
fuzzygroup: whose doesn't ?
fuzzygroup: i mean do you know htat I've seen every sunrise in like 5 months now ?
travisdu: you sound like that guy Warthom or whatever his name is.
travisdu: the guy who created Mathimatica.
fuzzygroup: lol. no he's smart. i'm just driven.
fuzzygroup: or nuts. take your pick.
travisdu: i dont like to pick my nuts.
fuzzygroup: lol. roflol.
travisdu: anyway…im giving
travisdu: drupal a second look at the moment.
fuzzygroup: good.
fuzzygroup: i tend to not push anything unless i have done a lot of looking at it.
travisdu: success and frustration rolled into one package.
fuzzygroup: and if you want me to just
fuzzygroup: stuff an instance on my server for you
fuzzygroup: that's easy
fuzzygroup: eliminates the frustration
travisdu: nah i got it running.
fuzzygroup: ok. just offering.
travisdu: appreciate it.
fuzzygroup: it looks like i'll be helping get this going for a national blog community (still in negotiations)
travisdu: i cant get the blocks to display on the left
fuzzygroup: so the docs and themese will get a big boost
travisdu: oh that would be cool
fuzzygroup: Yup.
travisdu: what do you mean by a national bloggin community?
fuzzygroup: Think about a blogging community in a foreign country
travisdu: Ahh ic.
fuzzygroup: (asian) can't say more yet.
travisdu: no worries…..
fuzzygroup: do you need a theme with blocks oon the left ?
travisdu: why is it that most CMS are built in Europe?
fuzzygroup: lol.
fuzzygroup: there are a lot of reasons for that
travisdu: LOL thats why it wont display on the left?
travisdu: doh
fuzzygroup: but it would be insulting to the europeans for me to go there
travisdu: so?
travisdu: just playing
travisdu: im german decent
fuzzygroup: I need to politely find a way to say "99% of europeans are control freaks"
fuzzygroup: and cms is about control
travisdu: you mean a "marketing friendly" way to imply that lol
travisdu: ahh i get ya
fuzzygroup: but, never forget that the cms that make real \($ are us travisdu: US companies u mean? fuzzygroup: Yup travisdu: Can you recommend a theme for me? travisdu: i guess i could just download them all travisdu: but i dont know which ones work for the new version fuzzygroup: give me a bit of time and i'll find one for you. travisdu: nah no worries..... travisdu: i dont like to waste peoples time with stuff i can do myself. fuzzygroup: dpmt travisdu: i try not to be lazy. fuzzygroup: don't worry about it. fuzzygroup: i have to do one for gretchen's site anyway. travisdu: so from looking at it...drupal.... travisdu: all the theme editing is done offline right? travisdu: i mean there is no interface. travisdu: correct? fuzzygroup: That's basically correct fuzzygroup: themes are definited in a code file. travisdu: or i should say admin display of the areas to edit. travisdu: right travisdu: is anyone doing marketing for Drupal? fuzzygroup: me fuzzygroup: i own []( (nothing there yet) travisdu: Ill be honest with you i dont understand Open Source theology. fuzzygroup: ask away travisdu: Well if i understand it right...OP is based on... travisdu: the idea that if you build it, they will nead service correct? fuzzygroup: not really at all. travisdu: lol ok travisdu: how do they make money? fuzzygroup: Well. back up a bit. travisdu: ok fuzzygroup: The basic premise here is that OS is about "freedom" fuzzygroup: i.e the ability to control your own data and computing resources fuzzygroup: it's called "free as in beer" fuzzygroup: ie beer isn't free but you are free to do with it what you want travisdu: ok but they dont charge for the beer? fuzzygroup: Yes. fuzzygroup: So, for example, Red Hat can charge for the services around Linux but not for Linux itself travisdu: including the additions they have made to it. fuzzygroup: Yup. travisdu: hmmm.... fuzzygroup: So what you pay for when you buy red hat is NOT the code but the packaging, the support contract, etc. travisdu: how does that protect Red Hat fuzzygroup: protect them from what ? travisdu: competition. fuzzygroup: Well fuzzygroup: it doesn't really but it also does fuzzygroup: for example []( was origianlly a clone of Redhat right down to everything travisdu: ok travisdu: and? fuzzygroup: Well fuzzygroup: if you want to be successful you need to differentiate yourself (essensce of makreting) fuzzygroup: marketing that is travisdu: ic ic travisdu: ok here is the problem i have with OS... fuzzygroup: so what this all comes down to is that a bunch of geeks fuzzygroup: find a cool problem fuzzygroup: write some code fuzzygroup: if it gets up steam fuzzygroup: then others coalesce around it fuzzygroup: and then offer whatever else needs to be done (docs, etc) fuzzygroup: and, while its not perfect, there is one thing that everyone misses about it. travisdu: yes? fuzzygroup: A good OS product is substantially higher in quality than a commercial product. travisdu: example? travisdu: fuzzygroup: Well. fuzzygroup: Linux for example. fuzzygroup: Note quality is a fuzzy metric fuzzygroup: I would define it as "Software that don't crash" fuzzygroup: not as in "perfect docs" travisdu: ok ill give ya that one. fuzzygroup: Another example: Drupal. fuzzygroup: Ever see my performance analysis on drupal ? travisdu: Not ready for public consumption though. fuzzygroup: Disagree. travisdu: the average netizen can not use this. fuzzygroup: it's ready for their target market. fuzzygroup: And that's a geeky sort. fuzzygroup: It's not yet you. travisdu: hmmm ic i agree. travisdu: so they are going after.... fuzzygroup: Here's another example fuzzygroup: QMail is an awesome mail server travisdu: the implimenter. fuzzygroup: They lack marketing in a formal sense you have to understand. fuzzygroup: So their target is really folks like themselves - geeky people that want to do cool web stuff. travisdu: right... travisdu: yeah its ready for them. fuzzygroup: Yes it is. fuzzygroup: And Linux on the Desktop really isn't there yet. travisdu: Here is my prob with open source personally..... travisdu: If i create a business..... fuzzygroup: But I would point out that our current high tech products all pretty much suck rocks today. travisdu: I want to be able to build into it the ability to build me out of it. fuzzygroup: Ah... travisdu: why would i want to create a service business. fuzzygroup: Well here is how this is generally done travisdu: i hate customer service. travisdu: hey Scott can you hold that thought... fuzzygroup: sure travisdu: i need to pee and smoke.... travisdu: back in 5 fuzzygroup: ok. ttyl. travisdu: k ditto travisdu: being able to pee and smoke is a decidedly male pleasure. travisdu: at the same time i mean. travisdu: fuzzygroup: lol. Yes. travisdu: ok here is my marketing plan for Drupal..... travisdu: give away the software..... travisdu: and sell easy to understand docs!! fuzzygroup: Sure. Nothing is stopping you from just doing that. travisdu: haha fuzzygroup: no seriously. fuzzygroup: One thing that people generally find bizarre travisdu: actually they should sell the modules.....ala Red Hat fuzzygroup: Red Hat doesn't sell modules, what do you mean ? travisdu: hmm...I thought Red Hat sold the.... travisdu: package and docs and such. travisdu: basically their versioning. travisdu: addons and such. fuzzygroup: kind of. fuzzygroup: what they really sell is a box with a licnese to call for support travisdu: See thats my main prob with OS...let me explain with an example from my own biz. travisdu: The information I sold I could have easily given away.... fuzzygroup: Sure fuzzygroup: and I think i know where you are going fuzzygroup: Yes it could have been given away. travisdu: the problem is that i have no desire to be a consultant fuzzygroup: But actually no. travisdu: there is no leverage in that. fuzzygroup: And I disagree fuzzygroup: Example. fuzzygroup: You create a book about Drupal. fuzzygroup: That book has a copyright that you own fuzzygroup: And you cna do with it what you like. travisdu: and Drupal org gets no piece? fuzzygroup: Nope! fuzzygroup: why would they ? travisdu: poopie for drupal. fuzzygroup: You did the work. fuzzygroup: Hmmm fuzzygroup: i think i'm miscommunicating something here. travisdu: I guess im trying to make parallels.... fuzzygroup: Bear in mind that it's really not about\)$ in the OS world.
travisdu: to different products.
fuzzygroup: It's about "freedom".
fuzzygroup: The $$$ happen as a consequence of the freedom to make a better product
fuzzygroup: Yeah. It's communistic as hell.
travisdu: The only corralary i see is to the tipping model that some …
fuzzygroup: But in the end – what people buy is trust.
travisdu: are using with success.
fuzzygroup: For example, I'm a happy Red Hat customer for my server
fuzzygroup: since I know it basically works.
fuzzygroup: So i have (thru my ISP) a support contract
travisdu: hmm ic interesting.
fuzzygroup: Now lets go somewhere new
fuzzygroup: Let's say that you want to make some custom changes to Drupal to drive your business
travisdu: ok
fuzzygroup: You can do them yourself or hire (example) me to do them.
fuzzygroup: Legally I have to contribute them back to the overall project
fuzzygroup: Now the dupal guys may take them, reject them or whatever
fuzzygroup: but the legal issue with the GPL license model
fuzzygroup: is that you have to give back (under certain criteria)
fuzzygroup: other licenses are different
travisdu: Hmm ic
fuzzygroup: now think about this.
travisdu: I like that.
fuzzygroup: Yes you end up helping someone else
fuzzygroup: by this
fuzzygroup: but you also could have spent hundreds of grand on traditional software
fuzzygroup: if not millions
fuzzygroup: Bear in mind that an oracle license for a big website is 6 to 7 figures
fuzzygroup: so lets say that you wanted a new data type for your site
fuzzygroup: its cheaper to hire a consultant to tweak MySQL or Postgres than it is to buy oracle
travisdu: ok
fuzzygroup: (if the software otherwise meets your needs)
travisdu: hmm.. question…
fuzzygroup: the give back is what people have the most problem wiht generally.
fuzzygroup: Sure
travisdu: do the guys at Drupal eat?
fuzzygroup: Yup.
fuzzygroup: Most of them have day jobs or are grad students (one is writing his phd on compilers)
fuzzygroup: A huge amount of what drives this is the "I CAN DO THIS BETTER THAN X" mantra
fuzzygroup: over time the good projects emerge into businesses
fuzzygroup: and the bad ones stay labors of love
travisdu: yeah ive gotten that.
travisdu: lol
fuzzygroup: or if not "bad" then "small"
travisdu: well thanks for the newbie intro to OS.
fuzzygroup: no prb. expect to see it written up sometime
travisdu: Its just that its hard to watch….
fuzzygroup: what url of your should i link it to ?
fuzzygroup: Oh it is
fuzzygroup: it's like sausage
fuzzygroup: you like the product
travisdu: a product with potential….
fuzzygroup: but you hate the process
fuzzygroup: The way to look at it
fuzzygroup: is that a little investment can have a big pay off
travisdu: not have the resources of a traditional business.
fuzzygroup: take a look at
fuzzygroup: that's a drupal site
fuzzygroup: it runs on a PII 300
fuzzygroup: and has stood up to being slashdotted i.e. featured on slashdot
fuzzygroup: It costs Jeremy like nothing other than 1 server at an ISP
travisdu: slashdot is a portal of some sort?
fuzzygroup: is one of the highest traffic sites on the net
travisdu: Ahh ic
fuzzygroup: And when a site is featured on it
travisdu: heard the name.
fuzzygroup: the effect is called "slashdotting"
fuzzygroup: it generally takes the site offline
travisdu: lol
fuzzygroup: No seriously
travisdu: like being on the homepage of yahoo or something.
fuzzygroup: Yup
fuzzygroup: That's detailed traffic metrics
fuzzygroup: basically they saw hits go up 600%
fuzzygroup: within an hour of being featured
fuzzygroup: He IM'd the drupal team
fuzzygroup: and they tuned his site for him for free in real time
fuzzygroup: Never crashed
fuzzygroup: never died
fuzzygroup: Labor of love and passion isn't all bad.
travisdu: real time….i didnt know that was possible.
fuzzygroup: it's weird as all hell though I'll give you that
fuzzygroup: Yup.
fuzzygroup: Drupal has brilliant engineering underneath
fuzzygroup: Contrast that with a microsoft product
fuzzygroup: which would have required restarting and such
travisdu: Yeah thats something i can "feel" just using it.
fuzzygroup: Yup.
fuzzygroup: So think of this in terms of your business goals
travisdu: speaking of which will Yahoo IM ever be stable?
fuzzygroup: lol.
fuzzygroup: never.
fuzzygroup: it actually can't be due to the reliance on infernal exploder technology
travisdu: what the hell is their problem…i should have never upgraded a year ago.
fuzzygroup: Nope.
fuzzygroup: And, that, my friend is my whole thesis
fuzzygroup: Bear in mind that from a perspective of engineering
fuzzygroup: we are at a point where its time to give it up
fuzzygroup: and admit that the classical software engineering models of proprietary development just don't work anymore
fuzzygroup: If I had to put money on it, I'd bet that in the next 2 to 5 years you will see the entire commerical software business implode
travisdu: No way.
fuzzygroup: as customers say "You know this sh* doesn't work"
fuzzygroup: Yup.
travisdu: to fast.
fuzzygroup: Don't think so
fuzzygroup: Ever read "The Tipping Point"
travisdu: Look at medicine….
travisdu: that model has lasted a long long time and only now is showing signs of imploding.
fuzzygroup: Also bear in mind that the OS revolution isn't new
travisdu: its a very slow process.
fuzzygroup: it's > 15 years old now.
fuzzygroup: Yes but high tech is the fastest cycle on the planet
travisdu: hmm….thats true.
fuzzygroup: and people are more pissed off than ever now
fuzzygroup: I mean I'm a serious alpha geek on all dimensions
fuzzygroup: and even I can't make this sh* work generally.
travisdu: lol no?
fuzzygroup: Right now windows restarts cost me $4,500 annually in down time on my personal desktop
fuzzygroup: alone
fuzzygroup: and that's conservative metrics
travisdu: Ok but if OS is to survive then…..
travisdu: it needs a body of people to organize its flow.
fuzzygroup: (i did the cost factor analysis, I used to be a VP of engineering with 45 guys under me)
fuzzygroup: Yes and No.
fuzzygroup: Are you familiar with emergent systems and self organizing networks ?
travisdu: yes they either dissipate or evolve to higher order.
fuzzygroup: Yup.
fuzzygroup: And think about Linux itself
fuzzygroup: that's what happened to it.
fuzzygroup: It organized itself into RedHat, Mandrake, GenToo, etc.
travisdu: So why so few viable products so far from OS?
travisdu: in comparison.
fuzzygroup: Few ?
fuzzygroup: There aren't few.
travisdu: yes….products that have made the jump to….
fuzzygroup: I think that most of them
fuzzygroup: are ones that miss your personal radar.
travisdu: why no mainstream then?
fuzzygroup: well.
travisdu: thats a viable arguement.
fuzzygroup: Define Mainstream.
fuzzygroup: If mainstream = desktop
fuzzygroup: then yes
travisdu: Their is a IM that is….
travisdu: OS
travisdu: and I dont use it.
fuzzygroup: if Mainstream = server
travisdu: cause its not as functional.
fuzzygroup: You mean Jabber ?
travisdu: correct
travisdu: I use Trellian instead
fuzzygroup: Which Jabber client are you running ?
fuzzygroup: And do you use Trillian because it has interop or because of its features ?
travisdu: hmmm….mostly interop
fuzzygroup: (disclaimer - I hate trillian with the passion of a thousand dying suns)
travisdu: lol why?
fuzzygroup: Oh god. Sec for the url.
travisdu: ok
fuzzygroup: It sucks rocks basically
fuzzygroup: And lots of folks love it i know.
fuzzygroup: basically they made a series of pathetically stupid human factors decisions that served no one other than their own vanity
travisdu: ill read it….after we disco
fuzzygroup: sure.
travisdu: lol…
travisdu: Hey Scott..
fuzzygroup: Here's an example of OS successes: something like 90% of the internet infrastructure in use is OS
travisdu: let me pass your a url…
fuzzygroup: sure
travisdu: this will take a moment.
travisdu: back in 2
fuzzygroup: k

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