Open Source Unconference: RomeCamp and Hybrid Open Source

Web geeks, students and curious people gather for a two days at the RomeCamp, an recent incarnation of the ‘classical’ BarCamp offering attendees also an interesting conference session.

On Friday morning Luca De Biase chaired a thoughtful opening session welcoming the lot of us with keynotes from Alberto Castelvecchi introducing “publishing 2.0“, Salvo Mizzi speaking of the  Ten-Year Forecast Program of the Institute for the Future and Carlo Alberto Pratesi stressing the importance of entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Listening to Carlo Alberto Pratesi talking about how ecosystems I wish I had time to share with the audience the ideat that also industry advisors, corporate networks, and buyer networks are fundamental (e.g. Marketcetera).

RomeCamp’s organizers might consider to leave more space for opening conversations within conferences’ sessions next year, still keeping this “hybrid” format of unconferences + conferences.

My first talk held at a barcamp – Free as in Business: lucrative coopetition – was focused on the relationships between companies and communities. This time I entitled my pitch Open Source Business in a Hybrid World, mainly speaking of 4 different sources of the open source value proposition.

Open Source Communities to many are a synonym for open source, and no one wonders about where the value comes from in this case. Open source value is developed and delivered by individuals or firms, as well as by internal human resources. Organization of work within FOSS communities may vary a lot, depending on the amount of formal and informal hierarchical coordination as well as modularity of the code base. Commercial services like indemnification, (hybrid) open source stacks or certification programs are not available in this case.

Open Source Core is when a vendor releases with an open source license a core version of a software package, then developing and adding proprietary features on top of that core. “Sponsored open source projects” – i.e. open source projects led by a vendor – tend often to lack in terms of transparency and accessibility. Copyright and control are in one hand, as a result all kind of commercial services are available by the vendor (and sometimes from others, see Appropriating Open Source Returns).

Dual Licensing happens when a vendor releases its software both with an open source and a proprietary license. Historically MySQL is considered the dual licensing pioneer, while SleepyCat have been doing this earlier. What is important to notice is that while companies like MySQL double-licensing targets IT vendors willing to make proprietary software, companies like Funambol addresses ISPs and carriers (segmenting their user base in a “pyramidal” way and yet implementing the Funambol open source business model). Again copyright and control are in one hand, and all commercial services are available by the vendor.

Appropriating Open Source Returns maybe critical, but the frequent absence of corporate actors, as happens with open source communities, opens up  world of opportunities for companies willing to deliver open source value created by others. Intellectual property management firms like Black Duck, or companies like SpikeSource making valuable the open source long tail, are just two of the many available examples.

Hybrid open source is about companies like Acquia, member of the global Drupal community and commercial entity providing products, services, and technical support for the Drupal, or Sonatype, creator of Maeven, now preparing for the introduction of new products and services.

Hybrid open source is here.