Sunday, November 18, 2007

FSOSS 2007: Open Commercial Development

I attended an interesting presentation titled, "Open Commercial Development", on Day 1 of the Free Software & Open Source Symposium (FSOSS) held at Seneca College in Toronto. The title of the presentation alone piqued my curiosity and prompted me to attend this discussion. It was presented by Lawrence Mandel and Jeffrey Liu, both of whom are software developers involved with IBM Rational Software at the IBM Toronto Lab. They described Open Commercial Development as a new hybrid model that incorporates some characteristics of the Open Source Model and some characteristics of the proprietary software development model.

They gave their presentation in two parts. In the first part of the presentation, Mandel reviewed the main criteria for Open Source Software Development and he discussed "what is" open source as outlined by the Open Source Initiative and others.

Part two of the discussion was presented by Liu wherein he attempted to describe the Open Commercial Development Model to the audience. Some concepts pertaining to the model were unclear to me. My understanding of their model is that Open Commercial Development is an attempt to build communities around software projects through direct contributions by the software's users. My sense is that they want users of the software to provide feedback about the software, particularly when encountering bugs, and suggest fixes that would potentially be integrated back into the software by IBM's developers.

The presenters said that Open Commercial Development is NOT Open Source Development and Liu gave an analogy of it being like an open-kitchen style of restaurant where customers can see the ingredients of the menu items and see how the food is prepared, but they are not directly involved in the cooking of the food. In the case of Open Commercial Development, customers, or users of the software would have access to the code and they would be able to submit software code and bug fixes for review by IBM's developers. However, my understanding is that people who submit code to IBM would not receive any commercial or financial benefit from doing this, and IBM would retain proprietary ownership of the code.

Some of this appeared to be contradicted by a few of the misconceptions that the presenters mentioned about their software development model. They said that it was not the intent of the Open Commercial Development Model to get contributors to work for free, to steal the intellectual property of contributors, or to make money from code contributed by the open source community. Despite these reassurances, there was evidence of skepticism from audience members about the Open Commercial Development Model's intent and its feasibility during the audience discussion that followed the presentation.

A couple of IBM's Open Source Development Projects that were briefly mentioned are Project Zero and IBM's Jazz.

1 comment:

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