Advantages of Open Source

Thinking retrospectively, I think I missed two things really important on my latest post, so this one is meant to fill the gap.

The good thing from the "bug hunt"

While I didn't like the bug hunt and even criticized it, there's a really good side on this, thanks to the Portuguese Ministry of Justice.
  • They're trying to make their best, or at least it seems so. They didn't just spit out some silly website (I was tempted to have links for "silly website", but we had enough examples from Portugal in the last few weeks, so they're really not needed) that only works on IE or something like that. Even this issue - the site works on Mozilla browsers (SeaMonkey and Firefox) but those browsers aren't able to see the security certificate as a valid one, and they're trying to fix that. While this could be qualified as "just doing their job", unfortunately this care isn't common, so they' deserve some kudos from that.

  • They're avoiding one slow bureocratic process of opening a public request, having people/companies wanting to do the job, choosing "the right one" and so on. Instead, they've seen an easier and better opportunity: since anyone can fiddle with the (open) code, they're just saying "Hey, there's this thing over here that would be really cool if someone did it. Why don't you have a try? If you make it we'll give you 1000 €!".

An advantage of Open Source

And the latest point leads me to another, perheaps the most important lesson to take out of this example: this is only possible because Mozilla's browsers are Open Source. See, since the code is open and freely available, anyone (at all!) is elegible to do the job - and that's great for every side: the Ministry of Justice can have their problem solved without having to contact some vendor and convince them that their piece of software does something that they don't like and have a virtually unlimited number of possible coders (if this was IE, for instance, do you think that anyone but Microsoft employees were to do the job?). Even Mozilla ends winning, because they don't have to do anything but reviewing a patch when the fix is done. Awsome, right?

It's scary the number of times I still get to hear stuff like "but are there any real companies betting/using Open Source software?"... It's not only a number that is rising, but finaly companies are starting to see the real power behind Open Source. Also, I remember talking with some Siemens' workers that said stuff like "yeah, we use Open Source stuff internally, but why do you think that they would let us contribute with bug fixes or enhancements? That would be giving our work to the other companies in the field!" What is missing here is that, even if you don't care a little bit about Open Source, there are lot's of advantages on contributing, and giving back. Let's get real - forking software is a pain in the ass. If you keep changing the original code and never merge stuff with the original branch, you'll end loosing endless hours of porting changes from the original branch into yourse, or, even worse, you'll stop looking into the original branch, which includes loosing lots of security or bug fixes, enhancements and new features. If you give back your changes, they're automaticly maintained - by the community. In other scenario, if you contribute fresh code (a new project, a new functionality, whatever) by releasing it in an Open Source model, you'll eventually get more users testing, helping, and enhancing your code. For free.

Well, this post is getting bigger than I wanted it to, so I'll shut up by now and have some sleep ;-)

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