Classic essay from Paul Graham, “What business can learn from open source”

Rudolf Olah:

The work of one ore more passionate amateurs on a free/open source project can trump the work of a professional on a proprietary project.

Originally posted on GoAugust:

Read the essay here, “What business can learn from open source”.

The three lessons to learn from this essay are:

  1. amateurs can produce good or better work than professionals when they’re passionate about the work (and especially if they don’t have budget or time constraints)
  2. workplaces need to be designed to allow work to happen, less distractions and higher comfort level (foosball tables, vending machines, etc.) increase productivity
  3. some of the best business ideas come from the bottom-up, they bubble up from front-line workers up through the organization and your business should allow that to happen easily

Paul Graham on meetings and productivity:

Meetings are like an opiate with a network effect. So is email, on a smaller scale. And in addition to the direct cost in time, there’s the cost in fragmentation– breaking people’s day up into bits too small to be useful.

Paul Graham on the lean…

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Open Source ain’t Charity

Originally posted on hueniverse:

We’re spending real money on open source. Since hapi has been almost exclusively developed by the mobile team at Walmart, we had to justify the significant expense (exceeding $2m) in open source the same way we justify any other expenditures. We had to develop success parameters that enable us to demonstrate the value and to make on-going investment sustainable.

The formula we constructed produced an adoption menu where the size of the company using our framework translated to “free” engineering resources. For example, every five startups using hapi translated to the value of one full time developer, while every ten large companies translated to one full time senior developer. We measure adoption primarily through engagement on issues, not just logos on the website.

These number change a couple times a year as the nature of contributions evolve, but they provide a solid baseline for progressive comparison. By having a…

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Quality Software Costs Money – Fund FOSS (Free/Open Source Software) Projects

Poul-Henning Kamp has written a fantastic article about why companies should just “throw money at developers” of free/open source software projects. The recent Heartbleed problem with OpenSSL could have been caught had there been more developer time devoted to the project. However, that developer time costs money and we should be far more giving to free/open source projects.

FOSS does not materialize out of empty space; it is written by people. We love what we do, which is why I’m sitting here, way past midnight on a Saturday evening, writing about it; but we are also real people with kids, cars, mortgages, leaky roofs, sick pets, infirm parents, and all kinds of other perfectly normal worries.


The only way to improve the quality of FOSS is to make it possible for these perfectly normal people to spend time on it. They need time to review patch submissions carefully, to write and run test cases, to respond to and fix bug reports, to code, and most of all, time just to think about the code and what should happen to it.

Two ways of funding FOSS mentioned in the article:

  1. hire FOSS maintainers, with the understanding that some part of their time is focused on the FOSS project and the other part is company time
  2. companies can donate and sponsor FOSS developer teams without hiring the maintainers

Creating a foundation for the project can also help because the foundation’s goal is to handle all fund-raising, which lets developers get back to work on developing using the funds collected by the foundation.

The article is really good, I recommend everyone read it twice and then figure out a way to get their company to donate to all the valuable open source projects out there like Node.js, WordPress, Linux, Firefox, etc.

Charging for Free/Open Source Software

Memo to OSS developers: I can pay money for software licenses, even if the license is just “MIT, but we invoice you”, but I cannot just put business funds in your tip jar.

from an article about TarSnap, the secure backup service, and how it could be better run as a business.

This is an important insight: software can be licensed under the GNU GPL or MIT with a software fee included. This is allowed by the licenses and it makes it possible for businesses to buy your free/open source software. To developers, it’s seen as a donation to their project, but to businesses it will be seen as a justifiable business expense.Modern business concept

Personally, I’ve tried to convince previous employers that they should donate to free/open source projects that we routinely used. My justification to them was that we rely on the projects so much that the donations are essentially a business expense. Unfortunately, if it’s labeled as a donation and not as a sponsorship or as a required license fee, businesses will not see it as an expense, they’ll see it as free code that will lower costs.

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Meet Oppia, Google’s New Open Source Project That Allows Anyone To Create An Interactive Learning Experience

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Originally posted on TechCrunch:

Google has become an increasingly active participant in the world of education, particularly when it comes to exploring the role technology can play in re-imagining the way we learn. With Google Play for Education, Android and Play-powered Samsung tablets for the classroom and its work with
com/2013/09/10/google-expands-role-in-digital-education-teams-up-with-edx-to-build-a-youtube-for-free-online-courses/”>MOOCs and online courseware, the company is expanding its presence both in traditional academic spaces classroom and outside.

Google’s educational experiments continued today, beginning with the launch of its first MOOC-style course, now open to the public, on how to interpret and understand online data. The second experiment, quietly announced on Google’s Open Source Blog, was the launch of Oppia, a project that aims “to make it easy for anyone to create online interactive activities” that others can learn from.

The motivation behind Oppia, Google explained, stems from the fact that, while a growing amount of educational content is now…

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Community Strategies: Interacting with FOSS Community

The purpose of is to give organizations enough information to create a well-defined and clear strategy for interacting with Free/Open Source Software communities.

According to an article on,

“[financial services firms] haven’t yet developed the processes, culture and mechanisms needed to work directly with the community to obtain support, make contributions and influence project directions.”

how Puppet Labs deals with community:

OpenBSD seeking donations to cover electrical costs.

OpenBSD Logo

OpenBSD seeking donations to cover electrical costs.

According to the thread about this on reddit (r/programming), the electrical costs are for the servers.

This is one of those essential costs that’s required when developing free/open source software that is meant for servers or for particular hardware configurations. This is also required for mobile web app development, to ensure that the interface works on all sorts of smartphones. Donating to a free/open source project helps a lot with the essential costs. Donations may not be able to pay for more full-time development work but they can at least keep the electricity flowing to the hardware and keep the servers running!