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Archive for June 25th, 2008

ZDNet’s Dana Blankenhorn Has it Wrong About Sun

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Dana Blankenhorn as ZDNet has posted a blog about Sun’s open source strategy


He seems to think that a publicly traded company such as Sun should allow product development to be driven organically by a community. In contrast the core development team of most open source projects don’t allow the project direction to be dictated by their community. Influenced? Yes (at their discretion). Directed? No.

My response to him is:

I totally agree that more transparency would be a good thing for Sun and its products and projects, and more openness would be the next big step. Beyond that I don’t agree with much that you wrote here.

The community demands a major say in the development direction or it won’t follow.

I don’t think this is true. The ‘community’ likes useful software and will contribute to the projects that provide it.

I agree that Java developers get frustrated with Sun and database developers get frustrated with MySQL. These (often vocal) developers represent 0.1% or less of the overall community. Surveys have shown that the majority of open source projects are run by a small (1-5) group of administrators/developers. Projects that have larger development teams are not large because it is easy to join the dev team, in fact they can be very hard to get in to. Try contributing to the Linux kernel or getting the Linux kernel team to bend to your will and see how far you get. Try directing an Apache project to do your bidding, its like trying to knit fog. Of course there are a few notable exceptions, but they are exceptions only. The core development teams of open source projects make the decisions about the direction, not their communities. The core team can decide to listen to, or ignore, the opinions of their non-development community. It is only when both the non-development community (often 1000s times bigger than the development community) becomes frustrated because they are repeatedly ignored, and the development community become fragmented, does the potential of a fork arise (a rare occurrence). Even in organic open source projects the non-development community can voice their opinions and objections but they do not direct the development of the project. The closest the community often gets is being able to vote on which features and bugs they think are most important.

The above being the case I don’t see why you want to hobble Sun’s strategy, product managers, and development teams by holding them to a standard that is barely even discernable among organic open source projects.

As you say there is no ‘I’ in team, but there is also no ‘$’ in team, and Sun ultimately has to answer to the market.

Written by James

June 25, 2008 at 4:58 am