Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Open source my ass?

I love open source. I love the community. You put together a large group of very smart guys and you can get anywhere. I am sure we'll change the mobile market forever with Funambol, because when you have so many brains working together... you'll end up creating something great.

Unfortunately, having so many smart people sometimes fires back ;-) Today, I spent some of my cycles on thinking about an email in our mailing list, titled "Open source my ass". I love the title and the content was really interesting. It was all about the tight-rope walk we are trying to do with Funambol. It goes down to what is "free" and what you have to pay for. As usual, people forget that open source means open, not free. But that is a different story I will leave to the smart brains behind the concepts.

In this case, the discussion was about support. Free support (from the mailing list) vs. paid support (to Funambol). If you really want to create a community, you need to help people to start working on your stuff. However, where do you stop? Where do you set the line and start telling people "hey, you have to pay for this"?

If Funambol people answer all the questions, the community will be developed around lurkers, just waiting for a cooked meal. Nobody will step up to the plate and say "I know the answer, here it is" because you'll know someone from Funambol will answer. That will be unhealthy. That is not a community. It is a commercial company giving away some free code to convince people to buy. That is not what I want the Funambol project to be. This is not how we change the rules in mobile.

I asked my team (reinforcing it today) to be more involved in answering to the community. But they have to do it in their spare time (if they have some ;-) 15 minutes a day. No more. It is 35 people growing fast, so it is a good amount of man hours...

Now, where do we put the line? If a question requires more than 15 minutes for an answer, does it make sense for someone in our team to do it in its spare time? Or does it land you in "you are asking too much, so you probably do not have enough time to do it yourself and maybe you could pay for it, so we get your money and put it back in the project"? What is too much? How do you quantify it? What should the metric be?

I do not know. I am throwing the 15-minutes-a-day rule out and see if it works. We'll find it out soon. That's the beauty of open source. That's the beauty of a community of smart guys. If it is not going to work, I'll get a "15 minutes my ass" email and I'll change it until I get it right.

I love open source.