Random thoughts on open source

I open source most of the software I create on shear principle. But I don't open source everything. That is because a small part of me knows that a real potential exists for my decision to open source something may actually end up hurting it.

For example, what if you build something that actually possesses a real and significant commercial value? Could the decision to open source it end up commoditizing it and destroying its value in the market place? Of course it does. That is why if you open source something [that you intend to make a living on] you must secure an alternative source of revenue. In other words, if you are WordPress, you need Akismet. If you are Mozilla, you need the Google Search box. If you are JBoss, you need a certification program. And so on and so forth.

An interesting observation is that all of the components that drive revenue for these open source products are actually closed source.

But what if you have no other source of revenue? It is wise to open source your software?

I am sorry that I don't have an answer to that question. The answer depends upon too many factors that vary too much from company to company, from product to product. I just know that I am reaching a point in my software development career where I no longer blindly open source software on shear principle or with the naive hope that people will contribute code back to me (people almost never do), and that I am finding myself less biased against companies that choose not to open source everything more and more.

It is late, and I am not sure where I am going with this. So I will just wrap it up and sleep well knowing that this crazy NaBloPoMo is over, and that I will no longer find myself up at 1:30am trying to make sense out of a bunch of random thoughts at the end of the day.

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