Open Source Software: an Inferior Good

2 October 2008
Image from “Romance gets a market correction”Please have a  read of Steven Vaughan-Nichols’ blog Lets Talk Cheap Software.  The comments are especially good.His point is that, in these turbulent times, expensive software licenses and contracts are not the place to put your money.  If cash is now king (but hasn’t it always been?) it is better to trade effort for a product than cash.  With open-source software, their is little cash outlay but you do have to spend the time to learn how to use it.

Like most inferior goods (I’m using inferior in the economic sense – see wikipedia definition here), open source software may not be seen as an attractive option when times are good.  When you feel rich, you have options.  It is easy to throw money at a problem and buy the expensive stuff and the consultants to install it.  On the other hand, when times are bad, throwing money may not be an option and is likely a dumb move in any case.  Its in the bad times that open source software is an especially attractive choice.

This doesn’t mean that you have to put up with something less, just something different.  An attitude adjustment is required.  Like in the article in The Globe And Mail today “Romance gets a market correction“, don’t worry that because you can’t afford expensive dinners any more, your marriage will suffer.  If you think back to when you were young and at the beginning of your relationship, those were happy times.  “You were pretty close to broke, but you were having fun.”

MJM Consulting – Helping companies grow.


Visualizing Involvement.

25 September 2008

One of the coolest things I’ve seen on the Internet in the last few years is the Code Swarm software developed by Michael Ogawa at UC Davis.  Code Swarm is an open source software project aimed at visualizing the contributions (commits) of a team of developers.  It is fascinating to watch, especially for a large project such as Eclipse.

Now imagine being able to do the same thing for the contributions of the employees at your company.  E-mails, file edits, phone calls all displayed as everyone is working together to create value.   What would your company look like and how big would your star shine?