People making money from open source? MADNESS!

I'm at my first conference session -- "Selling Your Milk When the Cow is Free." Did you know that even if you open source your code, people will still pay for your services, sometimes? This is of course the core proposition of open source as a business, as it's been pushed for about 10 years now. That's pretty much what they're pushing here. Some people have clearly heard this before and are walking out, but, what with open source not having conquered the world, others need to hear it.

At least someone asked some questions about the downside -- and this is always what I find the most interesting, asking people to be frank about the less-than-perfect parts about what you do. Google's Brad Fitzpatrick admitted that an early project he worked on (not at Google) was a mess in terms of actually keeping track of who had the legal copyright to the code. StatusNet's Evan Prodromou talked about the fact that you're in a relationship with a community that you don't control or run. And there was talk of people essentially setting up parallel projects with their code -- this happened to LiveJournal, for instance, with people who set up fake LiveJournal's with fewer restrictions (though they always crashed). On the other hand, there was a heartwarming tale of Sony and Warner Brothers building a framework for building Websites for musicians, starting with the same codebase -- and though they were competing with each other in the grand scheme of things, each company ended up adding new features that the other use.

There was also the standard debate over licenses ("Will Richard Stallman haunt my dreams?" asked one panelist). And, showing the reasons why panels like this are still happening in 2010, there was talk of how to placate investors who freak out over open source. (Now you can point out $1 billion sales like MySQL, though of course that had its complications.)

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