Commercial Open Source is a Juggling act (part II)

Commercial Open Source has a lot in common with Juggling, and once you have broken the problem down into simpler steps, it is up to your discretion what to do next.

Juggler Absentmindedly juggling by T Bell

In juggling balance is an essential skill, but it doesn’t equal to stillness.

The downside of balance is that you don’t want things to change. The moment you’ve achieved balance, you’d better be ready and willing to get rid of it. Because if you stay with what you think is perfect balance, you’ll be far from in control. Remember, there is no perfect balance; there’s only the approach to it.

Open sourcing your software – throwing the balls – it is just the very first step, then you started playing you need to continuously refine your technique. Look at Funambol, now playing with two “balls” (community and carrier edition) instead of three: they are keeping moving and refining their business model. So does Alfresco, GPLing its software in order to give its new hybrid community a chance – and here I see a need for major adjustments, if they really want it to be a multiple vendors’ project.

Juggling is also about being flexible to the unexpected:

flexible to mistakes of any kind, like the wrong music coming up.When the unexpected flares up, you have to have a sense of humor — to know that your position has been compromised. It’s not the end of the world.

May be at Novell they didn’t expect what’s going to happen because of the so-called nefarious deal, but it took ages for them to “catch” it, and the public get annoyed by not-so-humorous tricks. They were not proficient also in the “show-ending“, eventually.

Open Source firms have to juggle different types of things, and the different characteristics of the objects affects your business game.

Worse than dropping objects is letting them collide in the air and fall in random patterns. To prevent this, you need to create a separate flight path for each object. This comes from training and from knowing how objects move. A ring is a thin planar object that can slide through the air. A club creates a much bigger planar area as it revolves on its axis, and it takes up a lot more space. Then there’s the ball — the easy one that flits in and out of space. But the funny thing is that it’s usually the ball that screws everything up.

Persons are like balls, if your business is based upon a community-based resource you really need to pay a lot of attention to retain them: a weak intellectual property asset need care.

Customers are like clubs, the Internet it is just to small, and customers’ satisfaction gets more and more important when (and if) the exit cost is small. Despite the buzz can greatly help to get new users and eventually customers, but then you need to keep listening them.

Partners are like rings, quite difficult to throw, but once in the air they are consistent with the original trajectory, unless you try to juggle them under wind conditions. Once you get partners, they tend to stay.

And you better know that numbers jugglers do their best just with rings!

Michael Moschen, one of greatest living jugglers, was interviewed by Anna Muoio, a Fast Company‘s journalist who wrote an inspirational article entitled “Life is a Juggling act“. I grabbed some idea from the original article – that I would recommend if interested in the subject – to talk about Commercial Open Source and Juggling.

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