Choose your bedfellows carefully

Obviously, there are some big software vendors that just don’t know how to be good citizens. For many, it’s all about the bottom line, no matter what.

Anyone in the learning technology space knows about Blackboard’s greedy grab for intellectual property that was originally created by the community (yes, the initial suit is against D2L, but will open source be next?). And now along comes Oracle into the open source space and tries to squeeze Red Hat out of the enterprise Linux market, as reported by Matt Asay.

I would say that this proves Churchill’s adage that first we shape our institutions and then they shape us. The nature of the beast that is the corporation is that it is self-serving and motivated by profit at all costs. Community-based projects, like open source are built on a different premise.

One thing I’ve learned as a free-agent is that your real partners are the ones who have the same level of risk as you. When I partner on a handshake with another free-agent, I know that that person has as much at stake as I do. When I’m asked to enter into a partnership with a corporation, I know that it cannot be a real partnership with the same risk on each side. What happens if one of us decides to change the rules of engagement? If it’s the corporation, then I’m left high & dry because I don’t have the means to take on their retained legal counsel.

Therefore, I only partner with equals and I sub-contract to larger corporations. With corporations, it’s a contract, not a relationship. I can have a relationship with a person, but not with a disembodied corporation.

As open source projects of all varieties get bigger, they will be befriended by large corporations. My advice is to choose your bedfellows carefully.

3 Responses to “Choose your bedfellows carefully”

  1. Rob Paterson

    So true Harold! It was a shock to me when I discovered years ago that it is impossible for an individual to have a relationship with a person who represents a corporation. The power differentials and the interests diverge too much.

  2. Chris

    I don’t disagree with you in principle, Harold, but in my ten years’ experience — for what it’s worth — I’ve never been screwed by a coroporation (I’m talking about small businesses of 10-100 employees). Micro-enterprises (1 to 5 employees) are much, much more likely to not pay a bill.

  3. Harold

    Chris, I too have been screwed by small companies. The issue with large corporations is that you are not working as equals, but according to a written contract, and the legal constraints that go with it. What I find with large corporations is that you can have a contractual relationship, and even a good one, but not a human relationship between equals. Even though the corporation has the status of a person, you cannot have a real relationship with it.
    In a partnering context, as opposed to a client relationship, I still prefer dealing with micro-enterprises.


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