Why pay for software in a day of open source?
You may have noticed the highly visible online argument going on between SixApart‘s Anil Dash and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. It escalated today when Matt continued the “open source vs. paid” debate (which is really open source ecosystem energy vs. a perceived slow-to-move commercial vendor positioning against open source).
This is amazingly healthy in my view and the competition for the hearts-n-minds of bloggers clearly is driving SixApart to build and deliver better and more robust services (and I’ve been waiting for them!).
I’d reframe this debate like this however: why should you pay for software in a day when open source is free and the ecosystem surrounding the successful projects is immense?
When I made my decision to begin blogging in earnest in 2004, there was only one vendor I was willing to bet my blogging on: SixApart’s Typepad hosting. Though I can easily install, run and maintain numerous types of open source packages (and could’ve with Movable Type, the software at the root of Typepad), I knew myself well enough and that I’d be twiddling bits instead of writing content if I used the then fairly immature WordPress. Typepad looked like a sure bet and had the momentum so that was my choice.
Even though I’ve been at the enterprise software level with Vignette and Lawson Software in leadership positions, for some clients I’ve chosen Joomla, Drupal and even used WordPress as a low-end content management engine. But when it comes to betting your business or a new initiative on a new category, it’s imperative there’s someone or some organization available to ensure a successful outcome with the software used.
- Case in point:* I’ve looked at DOZENS and DOZENS of ecommerce packages to be the engine behind a Joomla installation. With enough futzing and heavy lifting, it’s possible to use any of the most popular packages: the integrated ones like the free VirtueMart; or the loose integrated (i.e., crappy integration) ones like OSCommerce or ZenCart; but let me tell you that they all work but require heavy development and a huge propeller on your beanie to make function. Looking nice and well designed? Not on your life.
I instead opted to buy digiSHOP due to their reviews, attention to detail, hand-holding and support, even though they have zero integration with Joomla (albeit with a nice workaround). In one day it’s been a great experience and will shave off DOZENS OF HOURS of time from our development cycle and after all, doesn’t your time have some value?
- Case in point: * When five other geeks and I decided to rollout Minnov8, we did so on WordPress. Mainly due to our complete control over the software, look-n-feel, and our ability to extend WordPress with a forum and other functionality going forward. In short, things we couldn’t do with Movable Type as well as we could with an open source project and a vibrant ecosystem behind it.
But if one my enterprise clients was going to build out an enterprise-class blogging network (e.g., for a public blog, private client or customer service blogs, etc.) I’d recommend that — if they didn’t have savvy staff able to fully and completely maintain and architect a WordPress infrastructure — they pay a vendor like SixApart to ensure a rock-solid and successful implementation.
The old joke in I.T. circles regarding betting your business or initiative on open source is the VP of I.T. comes to the CIO about the fact that their mission-critical <place open source implementation here> installation went down. “What are you doing to fix it,” explodes the CIO. The VP responds, “Ahhh….well I did post a topic on the message board so someone should respond….at some point.“
I’m a huge fanboy for open source (read my post, Why I’ve Become a WordPress Fanboy) and feel that it’s baselined information technology and is allowing us to build in ways I haven’t fully absorbed and, in many ways, is the true engine of innovation in the internet/web world. But when it comes to getting certain tasks done or obtaining service level agreements or guarantees that something will work and map to your desired outcome, you might want to pay for the software you use.
About Steve Borsch
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.