by Richard Steel

Courting controversy

Feb 26, 20094 mins
IT Strategy

Oh dear. I’m getting myself into all sorts of bother following my Blog entry on “Open Sauce”!

Before I go further, I should make clear, perhaps belatedly, that I am stating my personal opinion, which does not in any way represent Socitm policy.

A lot of the comments I receive are semi-literate, anonymous insults, which are easily dismissed and likely to do their authors more harm than they do me – although I do try to find the time to provide reasoned responses. However, when someone who is clearly intelligent, is prepared to be identified and stands behind well-reasoned arguments, I really have to take notice.

…And if someone as intelligent as Glyn Moody doesn’t understand that I’m trying to poke fun at myself in a blog entry entitled “Open Sauce”, as in having the cheek to challenge some of the assertions around so called Open Source, then I accept that’s down to me trying to be too clever by half.

I am, ‘though, disappointed that he should think I “have such distaste for the concept that (I) can’t bring (myself) even to write the words without sanitising them between quotation marks”. Actually, I think some of Glyn’s respondents have caught the sense of what I was trying to say by suggesting other terms, such as “free software”, or “software freedom”.

I do stand by my comment that what many people mean is “anything but Microsoft” and I’m sure that Glyn, in his heart of hearts, knows that there are a lot of people who see Microsoft as the devil incarnate, and “Open Source” as a catch-all to describe the battle for redemption!

Yes – I know that the term “Open Source” is clearly defined, but it’s constantly misused, and that’s the point. I also think Glyn makes my point for me when talking about “you license it, just like you license proprietary software”. (I know your, packaged, licensed Open Source-derived software includes a spell-checker, Glyn, but you missed the typo – propretary!!)

As he points-out, Microsoft itself uses Open Source, but my view is that once you’ve turned-it into a commercial product, the term is no longer appropriate.

However, when it comes to my assertion that “Open Source software development… lags proprietary development”, I have to put my hands-up; fair cop! I did kind of pre-qualify my remarks by implying I was cream-crackered as I made them, ‘though.

Those who know me know that I push myself very hard – perhaps too hard – and I probably should have taken more time for a better considered response.

I can’t argue with Glyn’s examples of innovation based-upon Open Source, so my statement was clearly wrong (as I also admitted to ZDNet, today) but I do know that there’ve been occasions when I’ve wanted products that Open Source software products did not support.

The Tablet PC is one that comes to mind, although I’m sure it’s now supported; (I haven’t checked lately.) This tele-presence thing is quite important, in my view. It makes so much difference for teams or groups of people working in disparate locations and work-styles. It’s really great for real-time collaboration.

Anyway, we could argue over this for ever more. What I propose is that Glyn and I meet-up and I’ll take Glyn through the requirements I have, as a CIO, for ICT infrastructure to support an organisation like Newham Council.

I’ll be completely open about the products we use, the costs and the benefits achieved, which he’ll be able to see for himself. Glyn, then, can take me through how I could achieve as much at the same or a lesser cost using “Open Source” products, and we’ll both publish the results.

I’ll freely admit that I’m no technician, so I will need a technical expert to support me, and of course agree that Glyn can be similarly supported. If you are up for it, Glyn, give me a call on Monday, and we’ll agree a date for our first meeting.

I worked from home, today, and, when I wasn’t responding to Blog comments, spent several hours in ‘phone calls on Socitm affairs, using ICT as an efficiency-enabler in the depression and executive partnership, and of course in dealing with correspondence.

Have a great weekend.