Here, Eat This

It’s past 1am here so forgive me if this post rambles more than usual, but I wanted to get this thought down while it was still fresh.

I am always on the lookout for new analogies for explaining open source. Some don’t quite hit the mark, such as selling open source software is like selling bottled water, but I think I came up with one today that rings pretty true.

I am often amazed at how little mainstream business understands or knows about open source. To me for many applications it is a no-brainer to use open software.

But today I was thinking. What if I was walking down the street and a person, out of nowhere, offered me food? Nothing really strange or compelling about the person making the offer, just “hey, free food”.

I think my reaction would be very similar to the way most businesses approach open source. First I’d be thinking – is it safe? My second reaction would be – what’s the catch? I mean, I’m pretty much used to paying for food, so free food is kind of suspicious.

I think the analogy works. Of course, it all comes down to trust. If you trust in the person giving you the food, no matter what the context, you are more likely to eat it.

I’ll flesh this out more later, but I need sleep now. Talk amongst yourselves.

2 thoughts on “Here, Eat This

  1. Nice food analogy…a couple more analogies using the food as open source analogy:

    open source + charged for training/consultancy: give the food away but charge to wipe peoples backsides after they’ve allowed the free food to pass through their bowel

    commercial open source: give the bread away but charge for the sandwich filling

    Only kiddin’ 🙂

  2. Yeah, I had some similar thoughts. There is the free food you find in stores and restaurants where it is just a sample in order to get you to buy a larger portion, and then there is the free pretzels and peanuts in bars to get you to buy more beer. That seems to be very similar to the hybrid open source model: here’s a free taste but for satisfaction buy a meal. I think people understand that better. There is the “aha!” moment when they realize the catch is the need to purchase a traditional, closed version of the software to get it to work in their environment.

    But people don’t tend to have problems accepting food from friends. So who are the “friends” in open source? I think they can only be the systems integrators and solutions providers. Those are the trusted advisors for business. If we can win them over then perhaps more free food will be served.

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