James Dixon’s Blog

James Dixon’s thoughts on commercial open source and open source business intelligence

4. Open Source Model

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The Wild Hive Model for Open Source Projects

Consider a beehive in the wild:

Wild Hive Model

The hive is started by a queen bee. The hive grows over time in terms of the number of bees, the size of the hive, and the amount of honeycomb in the hive. Each bee performs a function within the hive and collectively they all benefit, but (at least theoretically) any bee is free to fly away to another hive, as is the queen. Bees can also (in this model) participate in multiple hives at the same time, flying from one to another at will.

An open source project can be described in a similar way:

Open Source Model

  • The core developers are often the founders of the project. Typically they do much of the development and design and also set the project roadmap. They act like like queen bees.
  • The community participates in many roles and tasks involved in designing, implementing, and testing the software. The community benefits from the project and the project benefits from the community. The community are like bees. Community members frequently contribute to multiple open source projects at the same time, often in different roles.
  • There is no productization process in an open source project. This is why the barriers to the adoption of open source listed above exist. Open source projects create software, they do not create a whole product. The productization process is not the same as the release process that some open source projects execute when they make new binary or source distributions available.
  • There is no specific marketing role in this model so open source projects gain mind-share and attract community members through technical articles, blogs, and word-of-mouth. Some of the most popular and well known projects have enough resources and evangelists that perform some of these functions but most do not.
  • In some instances the creation of the software is democratic in nature, but in most cases (at least with small projects) the project is run in a benevolent dictatorship fashion by the core contributor(s)
  • No matter how few or many contributors there there is little attention paid to intellectual property, license adherence (fulfilling the license obligations of other open source projects that are used), or patent issues.

Next: The Maple Syrup Farm Model for Proprietary Software Companies

Written by James

May 29, 2009 at 6:55 pm

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