While writing these words, a python script of my own invention is slowly delivering the motherload of all blog backups to write.as – the blogging platform I have been experimenting for the last few days. Rather than hide the programming under a rock and forget all about it, I’ve made it available as open source code.
I used to be somebody in the open source world – a very, very long time ago. I’ve told the story on the blog many times in the past, so I won’t repeat myself, but it seems odd sharing code after so long not doing so. I used to share everything – how to do things, notes about how to do things, even fully-blown solutions to difficult problems. And then I stopped sharing much at all.
I suppose, cutting a long and boring story short, I started to realise that some of the things I solved were hard-won – they had commercial value. While it’s nice to donate experience and knowledge to the community, when you provide professional services in the same field it becomes a bit problematic. Here’s the paradox though – unless you share something, nobody knows about your skill set, or abilities – so nobody wants to buy those services.
I used to have this circular conversation with the sales and marketing guys at work quite regularly. Back when open source software really started to gain some traction in the early 2000s, I advocated giving everything away, and selling services instead of products. I was ignored. If I had been making the calls I would probably have ignored me too – it takes a certain amount of bravery and recklessness to fly in the face of accepted wisdom. It’s worth noting that accepted wisdom struggles to explain why Linux has swept all before it over the last 25 years.
If you didn’t know, both OSX and iOS are cousins of Linux – they have the same ideological parents. Where Apple cloaked their work in secrecy, Linux remained open and free, and through a roundabout route, that explains why Apple don’t make server operating systems any more. Windows has always been similarly closed-source (although that story is slowly changing) – which also explains why the vast majority of the internet runs on Linux, and not Windows. Every super-computer of note in the world runs Linux. The Raspberry Pi runs Linux. Android phones run Linux. Chromebooks run Linux. Did I mention that Linux is free ?
For the past several years I’ve played around with Linux at home – installing it on the old desktop computer from time to time, and on the laptop. While hardware compatibility can be a bit challenging, by-and-large the experience is a LOT less painful than Windows. I wonder if – given the move towards applications running in “the cloud” – we might see Linux eventually push Windows and OSX away from consumer desktops. The progress Chromebooks have made in schools is perhaps they biggest indicator going (read: they are everywhere already).
Anyway. Enough rambling about techie stuff. Time to go read a book, and kick back for the remainder of the evening.