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From Ross Gardler <>
Subject RE: Passion and vigilance in open source
Date Wed, 23 Sep 2015 00:26:08 GMT
An observation, from an ASF Member ...

TL;DR version: this is only history repeating itself, as long as we, the people doing the
work, continue to learn and adapt the open source world will survive

Long version...

My dad (who I consider far wiser than me) taught me that things tend to go in approx. 7 year
cycles. You can see it everywhere, music trends, fashion, marketing styles, business management
styles etc. The duration varies for each industry, 7 years is the average. He explained that
this is because of the lifecycle of decision makers who have to make their mark before moving
on to their next career goal.

That is, since there is a limited number of ways of doing something all changes affected by
decision makers are (in general terms) just a rehash of what went before with some incremental
improvements. Furthermore, we tend to swing, pendulum like, from one solution space to another
as a result of the limited options presented to us. We tend to build on what we know, it's
rare we invent something completely new.

My wise dad taught me that watching for those cycles enables one to always play at the head
of the *next* wave. While the glory is at the head of the current wave, longevity and success
(as a leader) comes from being "ahead of the curve" - looking to what will be popular next.

The ASF is a leader lets apply this to the foundation.

Consider a pendulum where point a is one extreme, point b is the center point and point c
is the other extreme. Now:

Let a = open source is a business model
Let c = open source is a development model

Let b = "community over code" and "a pragmatic license" (sound familiar? - that's deliberate)

If I look back over the 20 years of the Apache Group and the Foundation we see open source
going through the swing from a -> b -> c -> b -> a many times. Whereas the ASF
itself has stayed reasonably stable at point b.

I believe we are currently close to point a (open source = business model). This last happened
in 2008 (ha, look at that, exactly 7 years, honestly, it's true by dad is a very wise man
:-). Check it yourself, do a web search for "open source is not a business model" - my first
5 hits were all either 2008 or 2015. 

Back to Jim's observation. I agree that "Apache is ... all about community and fun whilst
still changing the world" (point b on the pendulum) I don't agree with what I believe is implied
in Jim's full statement - " Apache is *one of the still remaining oasis of open source being*
all about community and fun whilst still changing the world,"

I think we have *always* been one of the few places where open source is "all about community
and fun whilst still changing the world". Our uniqueness is not that we are one of the few
orgs at point b. No, our uniqueness is that we don't allow ourselves to be pulled too far
towards point a or b as the pendulum swings. We are not fickle followers of fashion. We know
where the optimal point on that pendulum is and we have settled here because we are leaders,
not followers.

We are not unique in this. There are other places that play this leadership role, some at
different points on the swing, some simply following the current trends (if you want my opinion
on where I would place the various foundations you need to buy multiple beers, plus a few
Whisky's to loosen the tongue ;-)

Over time the pendulum becomes less extreme as the new decision makers learn from history.
For example, I don't think we will ever see a swing back to exclusively proprietary software
being seen by industry as the only viable business model. Similarly I don't think we will
ever see the day when the majority of open source advocates insist on using the term Free

For kicks, consider the difference between the 2015 "business model" swing and the 2008 "business
model" swing is that 2008 was about "open core" and 2015 is about "open source as marketing".

Clearly nothing as blatent as open core will work, we learned that in the 2008 swing. So we
need something different, I claim it is marketing. Witness the rapid growth in marketing focused

For kicks, check the dates on a search for "open core and open source", yes, the peak is circa
2010, i.e. on the down-swing from point a to point b ("open core is evil, we must change this")
and 2015 "let's not go there again". Here in the ASF we are already seeing the start of a
backlash against open source as a marketing tool. In another year or so it won't be just Jim
posting about how things have changed ;-)

Our role, as a foundation, is to sit patiently waiting for the pendulum to settle. It will
settle round about where the Apache Way tells us to sit (community before code and a pragmatic


-----Original Message-----
From: Jim Jagielski [] 
Sent: Tuesday, September 22, 2015 12:59 PM
To: ComDev <>
Subject: Passion and vigilance in open source

Some of you may know that I've started a Vlog series on Youtube around some topics I find
interesting, mostly around open source.

My latest is about the risks around open source today where the fun and passion that used
to exist around open source is drying up or being discounted. Since Apache is one of the still
remaining oasis of open source being all about community and fun whilst still changing the
world, I'd like to ask for some thoughts from the membership about their concerns, etc...
that I can fold into the 2nd part of this mini-series.

If so, please contact me directly. I have set the Reply-To header accordingly.


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