Read What Simon Says


It's a red letter day here on Computerworld UK, for the open source section just gained an important new strand in the form of Simon Says, a blog from Simon Phipps:

Welcome to my new ComputerWorldUK blog, where I'll aim to bring you regular dispatches from the front lines of the free and open source software revolution.

He'll be doing that in a new role he takes on from today:

Starting this week, I'm joining ForgeRock as chief strategy officer. They are a company building an enterprise integration and identity platform using some superb code that has been set aside in the acquisition of Sun by Oracle. Customers worldwide rely on OpenSSO; ForgeRock will be offering them the option to stay with it (renamed OpenAM for trademark reasons) rather than needing to re-architect their systems to use a different product.

There are a number of interesting aspects to this. First, and foremost, is the fact that we are seeing here an experiment in picking up someone else's open source code and building a business around it. Simon says that the plan is not to fork the code unless that proves necessary, but it will be fascinating to see how this works out in practice. The company he has joined – Forgerock – is also unusual in that it is based not in the US or UK, but in Norway, which places it slightly outside the free software mainstream (although Trolltech offers a good example of a successful Norwegian startup that was active in the open source area.)

And if you're wondering what the relationship will be of his blog to this one, Simon explains that nicely on his personal blog:

Glyn’s view is as an observer and (in the best sense) critic. Mine is as a practitioner, reporting from the field

In other words, our blogs are essentially complementary, although not in any exclusionary sense. For example, as well as being someone who has been deeply immersed in the day-to-day reality of running businesses based around open source, Simon also thinks deeply about the larger issues. This is shown by his concluding remarks to me when I interviewed him back in 2007:

I actually think that we're in the middle of a pivot point in the way society functions. I believe the World Wide Web as the vehicle for popularising the Internet is producing something that is as impactful as the Industrial Revolution. And, I think during the next decade, we will see that process of changing how absolutely everything works rolling out in front of us.

Pre-World Wide Web, most things that happened in the world were done on a hub-and-spoke basis where you'd have, for example, government in the middle and citizens on the end of the spokes. Or, you'd have industry in the middle and customers on the end of the spokes. I think the introduction of the World Wide Web has changed the basic topology of society from hub-and-spoke to mesh.

Because the software industry is so closely connected to the World Wide Web, it's been one of the first to be impacted. So I see open source as an inevitable consequence of the switch to a meshed world. It's, in my view, the dominant way that software is developed in a participation age. The way you make money is not by locking people in with a license at the beginning, but rather by providing the capabilities people want once they're running things.

In the meshed world, what helps you be successful in a business is influence. And, you get influence not by power but by being valuable. My vision is that we're switching over to this new world of influence instead of control, of value instead of power, of participation instead of distribution.

Clearly, Simon will have lots of deep things to say about all aspects of open source: now might be a good time to add his new RSS feed to your reader...

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