Posts Categorized: OpenSource

Problems with Open Source

Via EdTechPost comes this well-written criticism of open source software applications. Michelle Levesque cites the major problems as being:

Poor user interface design
Lack of documentation
Feature-creep
Made by programmers for programmers (not focused on a target audience)
Blindness to other non-OS developed functions & features

This shows once again that there is a potential business model in adding value (by addressing these five problem areas) and selling open source related services & add-ons. The JBoss.com model seems to be a good example of this.

Technology User Cooperative

Project Avalanche is a new US-based cooperative, serving the technology needs of a wide variety of companies.

A for-profit initiative, chartered by a group of companies, to reduce the cost and increase control over mission-critical software. Members of the Cooperative share intellectual property (IP) and collaborate on projects that generate IP. Our subscriber agreement enables IP to be shared by and between the Cooperative and our members, and collaborations to be pursued, without legal liability risks. The Cooperative was incorporated under Minnesota Cooperative Statute 308B. Consultants, as well as hardware and software vendors, may also become members.

This is an example of a new business model for the networked environment. It is a for-profit cooperative, and its aim is to reduce members’ dependence on IT vendors. I agree with the official perspective of the coop, in that it’s not your technology that gives you a competitive advantage but your "company’s strategy, leadership and other human talent".

I think that we will be seeing more cooperatives like this in the future.
AP report available, but requires log-in on MLive.com.

Free Culture = Free Content

The Globe and Mail has covered the recent launch of Lawrence Lessig’s new book Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and The Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. The book is available free for non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons license. Since the online book launch, volunteers have already created audio versions of each chapter, also available for free non-commercial use.

This story follows on the heals of a Canadian federal court ruling that making files available for sharing on the Internet does not constitute copyright infringement. However, big media would have you believe that making content available for free has a detrimental affect on sales. This assumption has been proven incorrect by a recent Harvard Business School study, showing that the number of music file downloads has no relation to in-store CD sales.

The real story here is that the Internet has turned traditional business assumptions upside down. According to McLuhan’s laws of media, every technology has unexpected, and unintended, effects on its users (Extend, Obsolesce, Retrieve, Reverse). Lessig will sell more copies of his book because it is available online for free. This is especially true in his case, because the book is about digital copyright issues. Lessig has not given up his commercial rights, but he has created a legion of potential book buyers, without an expensive marketing campaign.

The lesson for businesses is that you had better understand the medium, and especially its effects, before it flips your business model around. The open source model, applied to open content, can actually be a financially solid business model. Think of it as the whistle-blow of the cluetrain 😉

LearnNB – Where Innovation Lives

The LearnNB website was recently launched as a portal to the learning industry in New Brunswick. The site currently has a recent article on the state of the industry, and you may sign up for the newsletter. More information and tools will follow soon.

Members of the industry met in Fredericton today to get updates on recent initiatives, such as the creation of a local chapter of the Canadian Society for Training and Development, as well as upcoming trade missions to ASTD’s annual conference in May and the CSTD conference in Toronto in November.

There was also some interest in working on open source software applications for learning. If this interests you, please contact me, as we would like to hold a conference on this subject sometime in the next year. Engage Interactive in Fredericton has developed some OS applications, and I know that some of our friends at the NRC elearning research group would be interested.

Open Source & Language

In an evaluation of v. 2.4 of Groove’s peer2peer software (v 3.0 is out in beta), a group of francophone reviewers looked at its functions. Since Groove is already upgrading, I didn’t go into much detail on the tech specs, and will wait until more reports on Groove come out. See my recent post on Groove 3.0.

What I found most interesting is that Groove has no intention at this time to come out with versions in other languages, and is not looking for any volunteers to help with localisation/translation.

Q: Is Groove Networks looking for partners to assist in translating Groove into other languages and/or testing under local environments?
A: No, Groove Networks is not looking for partners to localize Groove software at this time.

Now if you go to the ATutor site, you will see that there are many people working on version translations. The French version of the latest ATutor release came out at the same time as the English.

My point is that if you happen to work in a non-English environment, then open source makes more sense; because you will at least have the option to do your own translation.

CATA Supports Open Source

Last April, in a letter to the Treasury Board, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance urged the Canadian government to support the use of open source and open standards.

These governments have been attracted to Open Source because it provides a foundation for lowering costs while increasing stability, scalability and security. This change in procurement strategy provides an opportunity for our members to capture new markets.

I made a similar recommendation to the New Brunswick government during their recent pre-budget consultations. Too bad I hadn’t seen this letter earlier. Notice how CATA believes that open source/standards would be advantageous for its SME’s (small and medium enterprises).

Thanks to Seb for pointing to this.

Nuxeo – Collaborative Web Content Management

Un syst?ɬ®me de gestion de contenu disponible en fran?ɬßais.

Nuxeo CPS is a collaborative web content management system based on Zope, which is written in Python. According to the originators, users can create and manage content in Workgroups and publish them in Publications spaces through a dedicated workflow. Nuxeo CPS also features: office document integration, versioning; attached comments; etc.

The commercial version of Nuxeo is available in French only.

Open Source Learning Business Model

From Scott Leslie; Dokeos is a private Belgian company using the open source Claroline LMS. This company offers training, services and hosting, based on an open source system. I will be interested to see if this business and its model survive. I think that open source in a commercial education venture is not only viable, but that it’s a stronger model. With open source, the vendor can’t hide the system’s weaknesses, but will work with clients to improve the system.

I had previously written about one of my projects last year and discussed this kind of business model.

Oct 2003: I was evaluating LCMS’s for a client and it had been a few years since I’d done this. I saw how much the market had changed. I had conducted some evaluations in 1999 and 2000 for Industry Canada, while I was at Mount Allison University’s Centre for Learning Technologies. The Centre no longer exists, but one of our reports is still available on theTeleEducationNewBrunswick site. We also helped the Centre for Curriculum and Technology Transfer develop the "landonline" LMS evaluation site, which has since become Edutools.

Three years ago there were many choices, or so it seemed. Now the commercial vendors are fewer, and there are even less in the academic market. There are a lot of Open Source systems available, but my clients were uneasy about these, and I understand why. It’s hard to sell your board of directors on technology that has been "cooked-up" by a worldwide network of part-timers. They wanted some kind of insurance.

I believe the next great business model for an elearning entrepreneur is to provide high quality installation and support services for a select group of open source learning systems. Your customers will soon realize that you are not trying to sell them the next upgrade to get more cash, because the software is free. You will be selling your knowledge, experience, and customer service. Many IT departments would be more apt to use open source if they knew that it was strongly supported. Also, there is a lot less conflict of interest when you remove the vendor from the ongoing support.

Having lived through the dot com era, I believe that the marketplace is ready for this new business model.

Open Source is a Credible Option for the Big Guys

Even CIO magazine, read by most IT professionals, is coming out in favour of open source, with its recent article on The Myths of Open Source. This is a balanced article, clearly showing that open source does not mean free. Six myths are debunked, such as the idea that there is a lack of support, or that open source is not ready for mission-critical applications. In the end, open source is about standards, like HTML, which are necessary for any kind of collaboration. If you need to collaborate, you probably need open source.