Limiting the Crowd to their own time at their own expense: the open community's distate for commerce

Recently we looked at the Folly of the Crowd: how in all but the largest of online communities the supposed consensus community content is actually created by a fanatical few. This is made worse by the online world's distaste of people making a living.

To take one example close to home for this blog, recently a link to ITIL’s dead elephant: CMDB can't be done was removed from Wikipedia on the grounds that it is on a blog. Let me stress that I didn't put it there and I don't know who did. But someone thought it illuminated the debate and added balance to the otherwise rosy depiction of CMDB, until Wikipedia's intellectually elitist policy overruled. A blog is only opinion and yet an online magazine ( or CIO Magazine columnist Dean Meyer (who knows little about ITIL) are OK .

This followed an earlier debate over whether a site with Adsense ads on it could have anything worthwhile to say (generally held in contempt by the high priests of Wikipedia).

And recently I copped criticism on this blog from a member of the "open" community for my Ops4less site asking for content contributions in order to get access to the goodies.

I'm not taking this personally, I'm just citing examples from personal experience. Many other examples abound. While the Drupal community is receptive to folk selling consulting services, anyone attempting to charge for a contributed module would get nowhere, and there is no mechanism to do so. Some users get quite abusive if none of the (free) support volunteers answer their questions straight away or to their satisfaction.

This distaste for commerce amongst the open community strikes me as the height of silliness. The number of contributors is restricted enough already. If they can only contribute when they have zero benefit from doing so beyond either ego-stroking and posturing or the genuine satisfaction of contributing to the community or for some intangible future profit, then the pool will be further limited to the truly fanatical and will become even less representative of the community.

The open movement might spring from socialist ideals but it ignores capitalist reality at its peril. Every socialist state has discovered most people don't contribute without reward.


Yep Skep

In the service catalog entry, some busy body removed links to my blog and community, but left the link to my book on Amazon. So rather than get access to free advice and writing, they are directed to the $59 book. I couldn't do it better myself; I wouldn't do it either.

So let us all sigh together. I like Wikipedia and Open source is cool; I use it all the time. There thousands of commercial entries in Wikipedia. For example, books and music get pages and pages. Toothpaste less.

But when it comes to IT vendors - watch out. We want nothing from vendors there. I see this problem also with some people in ITSMF who want it to be non-commercial (whatever that means), but hit us up for sponsorships. Very funny.

But it's individuals doing this, not institutions; if I had the time and interest, I'd correct the wikipedia entry. I have neither. My fights are somewhere else.

I'm at peace.
Tx for venting this piece. It's a needed conversation in the ITSMf space.

Oops, don't tell Wikipolicia

On my blog is reference 32. Don't know how it happened but don't tell Wikipolicia...

You are offended too easily


Pushing the boundaries of commercialism for "OpenSource" related business will always draw comment. Springsource, MySQL, everybody comes across it from time to time. Its a result of being a new phenomena of business. There will always be the religion of free (free as in speech) vs. the business of Open Source.

The basic premise of OpenSource as a business though is that you build a community around something that is "free" to gain adoption and then you charge for things that are the next link in the value chain for that core resource. Services for support, or deployment are classic in the Open Source software world.

Take a look at the blog post by the 451 group on "The Law of Conservation of Attractive Profits", its good food for thought.

Asking money before any value is proven is contrary to the learning to this point. OpenSource is fundamentally an adoption led market and not a proactive selling one. People choose to adopt because of the proven value which is free, and then monetize to build on that value. Not saying its wrong, but if your adoption is low, then maybe the lesson is there. Or maybe you are right and its just ahead of its time :)

Brad Vaughan

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