Open Source Business Models

In my plethora of spare time <cough> <wheeze> I have been working on a project called "Test Run." Test Run is about to go into a public beta period which will require some way for me to support users reporting problems. I have seen the success of software embedding a fully integrated help ticket system in my work on TypePad, but I don't want to build the system myself - that just doesn't make any sense. So in need of a help ticket system that I could customize, host and install myself, and one that was ideally free (because I am po') I searched Google for open source help ticket systems. What I found was a little piece of open source software called Trouble Ticket Express. Aside from being a pretty solid little piece of software, what was especially interesting to me was the business model that it employs: distribute the core software for free, but sell small and simple add-on's for a modest sum. For a little extra dough, I can buy a MySQL or SQL Server add-on, or I can buy new features as well, like the ability to create help ticket response templates. And his pricing is perfect. No plugin is more than $20, which is just enough for him to make selling and building it worth his time, but not too much that I would consider building the plugn myself. The model is around convenience not around IP. And one should not underestimate the value of "time saved." Of course there are a lot of open source business models out there, but many of them require a large organization to support properly. Take MySQL for example. They sell propreitary licenses for their software that enables people to extend and redistribute their software without compelling them to make their changes open source as well. But while that is pretty straight forward, the legal overhead seems little much. Plus, your software needs to be compelling enough to warrant such a model. But let's face it, the vast majority of open source software is not of the scale of MySQL, Linux or Apache. It is bunch of folks like me and Alex who like to hack, and probably, if we had our way in life, would hack full time if we could actually support ourselves doing it. But we can't do it full time, because we have families, a desire to do crazy things like go to movies, eat out, travel and buy nice gifts during the holidays for the people we care about. All these things compel us to get a day-job (which we may love, don't get me wrong), which means that our open source work is something we do "on-the-side." But too much open source software is done "on the side." Some of it is excellent and deserves to be developed further. But it takes a dedicated individual to make that happen. But that is why I like Trouble Ticket Express' model. It seems perfect for independant open source developers. And if more people who build open source software thought about how they could distribute their software while at the same time make a little money on the side doing it, then perhaps the world may find itself with more full time open source developers, which in my opinion, would be a beautiful thing.

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