Having not blogged for over a month (well it was the holidays, and I have been guest writing for a non-techie blog) I was just about to do a post reviewing Prof. Andrew McAfee's book on Enterprise 2.0, but my old mate Laurence beat me to it today, with his review over at Word of Pie !
So, finally, onto the place of open source in content management, as per the title. Why tackle this subject, because my other colleague, Janus Boye blogged about his presentation on this topic at a recent British Computer Society event. He mentioned his confusion, and asks his readers:
"Dear reader, perhaps you can help me out? Am I am the only one thinking that:
- open source has lost its meaning and moved far beyond source code access to either a way of life for some very transparent vendors, or a new way to capitalize on software and attract snazzy investors
- open source does not have any real benefits for the buyers
- open source does not equal open standards. And, by the way, which open standards (except those from the W3c, e.g. HTML and XML) are used and referred to by all the analysts and vendors?"
- Open source has lots it meaning - nope, I don't think so ! However, I agree the context in which people use the model has broadened considerably over the years. However open source code is open source code - you either make it available or you don't, whatever your reasons as a vendor. But this leads onto the next point.....
- Open source does not have any real benefits for the buyers. Whoa there Janus, that's a rather sweeping statement ! Of course it may be true for some buyers, just as it is not for others. It depends on the context of the organization. Some benefits appear to me to be available for all, for example open source normally means a 'free' download version, which means you may not need to pay 'license' costs for test and dev environments, or at least for 'experimentation' VM's for your developers to "play" with the product. However I do feel that access to source code has its real benefits to organizations that want to do complext in house development. Having been involved in a broadly scoped and complex EMC Documentum implementation, do I think having the source code would have helped my developers if we had been using Alfresco instead - hell yes ! But unless you have development resources to make the use of it, then access to the source code is not going to be of much benefit.
- Open source does not equal open standards - on this we can agree. However, generally speaking I think all things being equal, the "open source vendors" (or projects) have a better track record with respect to implementing standards. Certainly the open source players like Alfresco where first out of the stable with CMIS implemenations (even before the nascent standard had been ratified).
There is also no good reason at all to preclude open source vendors / open source projects / products on some odd 'principal' - examine the potential benefits and you may find that they fit well with your standard way of doing things, your culture and your requirements.
A colleague I know slightly less well than Janus is Seth Gottlieb who is an open source CMS expert who blogs at Content Here. If you want to discuss the benefits (or disbenefits) of open source with Janus, join him and the rest of his team at the excellent JBoye 2010 conference in Philadelphia in May.