Thursday, April 22, 2010

the power of open source

I'm pretty overwhelmed now that I've returned from my annual Computers In Libraries conference trip. I've got a lot to do & little time to do it in, like everyone. But, I wanted to get this out there - the thought I've had for so long about the power of open source (reiterated further when I listened to the DrupalCon SF keynote being livestreamed yesterday afternoon & heard from the President's new media guru, who was behind the use of Drupal as a CMS for and is SO into "open government" that the team has contributed modules of their own back into the Drupal community).

Open source is not free. We all know that. But it shifts the economic benefit from one of vendor profits to one of staff development - the building of human capital. From that investment in the development of, say, in-house Drupal expertise, the returns you get are things like:
  • the ability to customize the system to your specific users' needs and your specific business' needs (instead of being bound to a set of system features that are implemented by a vendor on the basis of how profitable those features would be in the larger market)
  • improved competence among IT staff
  • higher morale among staff dealing with the systems they're implementing. People are intrinsically motivated by the ability to create and to have some control over their own destinies. That's an even more powerful factor in the happiness and productivity of employees than higher salaries.
  • a sense of social good - of contributing to a larger community - a sense of purpose
There are doubtless many more benefits the community can come up with re: open source - feel free to add in your thoughts or correct me if you think I'm off-base. But I truly, truly think that the shift of investment from giving more $ to 3rd-party vendors whose only motive is $ to spending that money on training and building staff is a positive thing for people, communities, and the economy in general.

So, to all of the businesses, nonprofits, and governmental organizations who are headed in the direction of open-source implementation - congratulations - I think your investment will be well-worth it. (I know Evergreen (open source ILS) is having its users' group right now and I'm sure a lot of wonderful new developments will be coming out of that!)

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