How to Compete Against Open Source Competition

At some point in the past year I watched a video of an Eric Sink presentation and he asked the following question (he said it was asked of him by a college student):

Why would someone buy your product when it has an open source competitor?

He didn’t answer it in his presentation, but if I remember correctly he said that to a college student, who tends to have a lot of time and little money, a product like Eric Sink’s Vault (which runs $299/license) is an enigma.

Why would someone pay $299 per user when there’s a perfectly suitable alternative available for free?!

Time vs. Money

At one point during college I had $6 in my checking account. This lasted for about three months.

I remember riding across campus, about a 15 minute ride (each way) to save $.50 on a slice of pizza. This is inconceivable in my life today. Back then, time was abundant and money was scarce.

Then I graduated and got a job. At a salaried job making $80k plus benefits your time is worth around $55/hour. Suddenly that ride across campus to save $.50 doesn’t seem like the smart money decision it once was.

And thus it is with the majority of open source software:

Open source software is free if your time is worth nothing.

I’m bracing my inbox for emails from disgruntled Gimp users explaining how charging for software is bad, commercial software is evil, and my mother dresses me funny. But I don’t buy it.

I’ve used mainstream image editors like Photoshop, Paint.NET and Gimp; some of my best friends are mainstream image editors. And when I saw Gimp I almost went blind. Children were weeping; fruit was bruising. The UI could kill small animals.

Are there exceptions in the open source world? Absolutely.

When an open source project gets enough talented people working on it, it can become a downright masterpiece.

Firefox rocks. WordPress is awesome. Paint.NET rules. And Linux is pretty cool, though the lack of drivers and ease of use as a mainstream desktop OS after all this time is still a disappointment.

And yes, I know about Ubuntu. I also know that every friend to whom I’ve recommend it has run into major compatibility issues or complete lack of drivers. Ubuntu is free, after 6 hours of research and command line tricks trying to get your laptop to connect to your network.

Have you ever tried Gimp? Or the admin control panel in Zen-Cart? Or tried to install a Perl or PHP module that didn’t come out of the box? I’ve been a web developer for 10 years and I cringe when I see that I need a module that’s not included…there goes two hours of my day searching, configuring and installing dependencies.

As a developer I’ve probably had contact with 300 open source projects, components, and applications. I estimate 80% of them required substantially more time to install, use, or maintain than commercial counterparts.

But depending on the price and feature set of their commercial counterparts, sometimes it’s worth using the open source app and sometimes it’s not. $299/user for Vault vs. $0/user for Subversion? It depends on how badly you need live support and guaranteed bug fixes.

The Differentiators

The areas that kill the most time when consuming open source software are:

  • Installation process
  • Documentation
  • Support
  • Usability

I’m sure we can all point out a handful of open source projects that have decent documentation and decent usability. The vast majority do not. Even fewer can be installed in five minutes or less, even by an experienced software developer.

How to Compete Against Open Source

As a commercial software vendor you have to focus on your key advantages over open source software:

  1. Save Your Users Time. Ensure a painless installation process, top notch documentation, top notch support, and a minimal learning curve for getting started using your application.
  2. Market Hard. You have a marketing budget; odds are high your open source competitor does not. If you can position your product well and build a reputation for good documentation, support and usability, you will sell software.
  3. Focus on Features for Your Demographic. Your open source competitor is going to win when it comes to college students, hobbyists, and other groups where time is worth a lot less than licensing cost. You will have an edge with business users since time is highly monetized for entrepreneurs and enterprises. Build features for people who are likely to buy your product.

You will find more success focusing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses.

Remember: while you’re not going to win a feature race against an open source competitor, you’ll do even worse in a price war.

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50 comments ↓

#1 igorbrejc.net » Fresh Catch For August 11th on 08.11.09 at 9:05 am

[...] How to Compete Against Open Source Competition | Software by Rob [...]

#2 Elwin on 08.11.09 at 9:14 am

The flaws of open-source software you point out seem to me to be flaws of software in general. I’ve come across plenty of commercial applications that suffered from them. Mapping programs, CAD, circuit design, EMF simulators, speech-to-text… the documentation was disorganized and ambiguous, and the interfaces looked like they were designed for Windows 3.1. All those design programs that insist on covering your screen with useless subwindows…

I wonder how they successfully compete against no software.

#3 William Pietri on 08.11.09 at 9:17 am

Spot on, Rob. I write this on an Ubuntu laptop in Firefox, and I released my first open-source software in 1991, so I’m a big open source fan.

Still, there are a lot of problems for real live people that open source can’t yet solve. That’s partly because not everything people need can be converted to bits. And partly because open-source projects are mainly worked on by hard-core developers, and not the many other specialties you might see on a good for-profit project. Like UI designers, usability testers, product managers, user researchers, visual designers, information architects, technical writers, testers, user experience testers and — yes — marketers.

I love open source, but I’m happy to pay for software that solves my needs, and expect to keep doing so. Heck, I would pay $50 right now for an Ubuntu Laptop edition rather than spend three days running down why my wireless driver sometimes crashes after sleep, or exactly what’s wrong with my X configuration.

#4 Richard Cunningham on 08.11.09 at 9:29 am

The problem is, if you want to sell your software to large user base then the per-user costs become prohibitive.

For example, say the Open Source product takes 100 hours to setup (which is generous) which is $5,500 and server costs are $4500/year = $10,000

You have a hosting product that requires no set and no server the subscription is $36/user
so…
10 users = $360 (big win)
100 users = $3,600 (small win)
1,000 users = $36,000 (oh dear)
and it’s not unusual to have 10,000 users ($360,000)

You’d think that people would get the problems with this model, but at least one company doesn’t:
https://www.yammer.com/about/pricing

#5 David on 08.11.09 at 9:50 am

Hmm, I appreciate the sentiment here as live in the FLOSS world can sometimes be difficult, although the three points to compete against FLOSS are flawed.

1. Saves your users time – Until they want to use a competing product and they have a neigh on impossible time exporting their data from your proprietary system.

2. Market hard – In most cases this means exaggerate and lie. Oh and let’s not forget the FUD.

3. Focus on Features for Your Demographic – That is, prey on the ignorant.

Also, what’s this about prospective usrs only having to do research into FLOSS software? If you’re going to pay a hefty licence fee, you want to do just as much, if not more, research before you lay your money down, lest you buy a turkey!

#6 Matt McGinnis on 08.11.09 at 9:54 am

“…there goes two hours of my day searching, configuring and installing dependencies.”

This is the sole reason for building Flooha.com. No average person should have to do this kind of thing just to use some website software. We’re in beta and it’s not perfect yet, but we hope to make life a lot easier for thousands of people who don’t want to fight with their software.

#7 Justin Dearing on 08.11.09 at 10:24 am

I agree with most of the article except the gimp bashing. Sure its ugly, the gtk file open/save widgets all suck, and I wish there were some plugins that improved workflow for my main gimp task, annotating screenshots, but its a pretty solid program. Its not photoshop, but it works for what I use it for.

Now if you want to bash an ugly unintuitive OSS app, pick on eclipse.

#8 Chris Weber on 08.11.09 at 10:43 am

There is an opportunity for commercial Open Source. We use VisualSVN http://www.visualsvn.com/ at work.

Why?
1. I refuse to use SourceSafe.
2. Co-workers arent’ comfortable with commandeline/Tortoise.

Enter VisualSVN. I think that someone who can harness the power of the great open source projects (like subversion) and get them into the enterprise is going to make big bucks.

#9 How to Compete Against Open Source Competition | Software by Rob | Information Technology on 08.11.09 at 11:07 am

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#10 Silas Marner on 08.11.09 at 11:12 am

Commercial software is typically designed for, and priced for professional “power” users … as in “follow the money trail” … and such users typically don’t have tons of time for software learning curves. So, they stick with applications they are “familiar” with.

Kids are fantastic learners, and seem to be just as comfortable with web-apps as “install-me, license-me, pay-for-upgrades, lose-the-license-code, reinstall on another laptop …. and so on” commercial apps.

They don’t read marketing material, and they are your future users (maybe)

So focus on 50-something business lizards who stopped learning in the 70′s. And market like crazy — out there in the world of baldness cures (Ballmer?) “enhancement” products, laser vision correction and weight loss programs.

#11 Arjan’s World » LINKBLOG for August 11, 2009 on 08.11.09 at 11:23 am

[...] How to Compete Against Open Source Competition – Rob Walling [...]

#12 Rev. Johnny Healey on 08.11.09 at 11:30 am

It’s funny that you list “Installation” as something that open source software is bad at. I’ve yet to find anything on Windows or OS X that comes close to competing with apt. The thought of inserting a CDs one at a time into a computer while it installs software seems like a huge waste of time.

#13 Magice on 08.11.09 at 11:51 am

I utterly fail to understand the whole point of “proprietary software saves time.” Frankly, the reverse is true. Let’s do some comparisons:

* Windows vs. GNU/Linux: First 2 days, Windows may save like 6 to 7 hours, granted. How about in 2 years? Do you count the endless time waiting for firewall to boot up, antivirus to slowly “update”, upgrading system, sluggish performance, etc.? Do you count in the intuitiveness of countless program in GNU/Linux (GNU Emacs, CLI, etc.)? How about insecurities?

* IE vs. Firefox. Do we even need to compare?

* MS Office vs. OpenOffice: yup, MS Office saves like 2 hours initially. After than, no difference. Does this justify hundreds of dollars?

* MS Office vs. Emacs + LaTeX: similar to the first comparison. First 2 days, MSO saves 2 to 5 hours. After that, Emacs + LaTeX saves daily at least an hour. In merely 1 week, Emacs + LaTeX has paid off its initial slowness. Did I mention that I don’t even need to leave Emacs any more?

* Windows GUI/Mac OS GUI vs. Enlightenment/FWVM/KDE : Similar situation here. FOSS’ window managers are vastly more customizable, so they can be easily fine-tuned for productivity and/or showing off. For Windows, you have neither. For Mac OS, you can show off a bit, but when get into intensive usage, I doubt if it can scale up to other finely tuned window managers.

The list goes on and on. Wait, do you see the pattern? FOSS usually requires a learning curve, after which it saves tons of time and money. Why? because FOSS creators actually use them, so they need to make it productive. Proprietary programmers merely sell the software, so they need to make it look nice, but who give a fuck about the (l)users?

I admit that proprietary software does have edge in some issues, but trying to say that your software “saves time” for users is like saying “these (l)users are stupid, and they are willing to pay a tons just to avoid a few hours of learning”. Yeah, right.

#14 David Smit on 08.11.09 at 12:10 pm

Great post Rob. It really got me thinking. I would totally pay for an Open Source product that was well documented, easy to install or just worked out the box.

One of the reasons WordPress is such a great product is because it’s super easy to install. Even plugins is a breeze to install these days.

@William: I just had to install Ubuntu and I wasted 10 hours configuring it and trying to get my wireless drivers working. I can’t believe that Ubuntu doesn’t suggest machines that are on the market. I think it would be great if they said on their site: Buy this machine and you won’t have any problems. They kinda do, but its not easy enough yet.

#15 How to Compete Against Open Source Competition | Software by Rob « Netcrema - creme de la social news via digg + delicious + stumpleupon + reddit on 08.11.09 at 12:30 pm

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#16 Mike Rooney on 08.11.09 at 12:41 pm

Hi Rob! While you have some valid points about spending money on software if it can save you time and make you more productive, I am disappointed to see people still spreading the FUD about Linux driver compatibility. OSX is compatible with what, 5-10% of machines on the market? I guarantee you the installation experience on my Dell laptop is more pleasant with Ubuntu than OSX ;) And does that wireless card work in Windows without scouring the internet for drivers? On my last few computers, Ubuntu has hands-down supported more hardware out of the box than XP, Vista, and 7 on the same machines including the fingerprint reader, bluetooth, card reader, and IR; however, I will admit that Microsoft closes the gap a bit with each release.

#17 Rico Marconi on 08.11.09 at 12:41 pm

As for wireless, which seems to be a frequent issue:

You might look at:

http://www.linux-drivers.org/network.html

Unfortunately, given the rapidity at which PC manufacturers change their wireless chipsets (and don’t advertise them), even with the much improved wireless support in Ubuntu, you could have a problem.

So did I, so I bought the cheapest Belkin USB wireless-G adapter I could, (At Wal-Mart, IIRC!!) and it worked flawlessly with no setup at all other than registering on the network. In addition, I have a wireless adapter I can use with other hardware.

In the “real world” sometimes, a little ingenuity is called for (remember Apollo 11?) and even Windows and Mac systems sometimes need workarounds.

The adapter cost less than a heavily-discounted anti-virus program.

#18 kaesees on 08.11.09 at 12:45 pm

Re: “Have you ever tried … to install a Perl module that didn’t come out of the box?”

Is CPAN really that bad for you? I’ve never really found installing packages from it to be that hard, it does basic dependency checking etc, although if a given package is in both the APT repo and CPAN it’s always better to grab it from APT for reasons that are probably pretty obvious.

#19 Michael Kozakewich on 08.11.09 at 12:50 pm

IF you’re working eight-hour days, five days a week, for $100,000/year, your working hours are worth the $50. On your off-time, though, it’s worth nothing, so you could spend the fifteen minutes.

If you calculate sixteen free hours, seven days a week, it means any spare hour you have is roughly equatable to $17/hour. If you can save $5 by walking fifteen minutes, you might as well.

The problem, really, is that you don’t want to be spending hours of your own time on work when you don’t have to.

So: If you want to save money by taking time, use the 16-hour/7-day model model. If you want to separate work from personal leisure time, use the 8-hour/5-day model.

#20 Rob on 08.11.09 at 12:57 pm

@Mike Rooney – I recently tried an Ubuntu installation on a one year old Dell laptop and spent 6 hours trying to get either of my network cards (ethernet or wireless) to work. No dice; I finally bailed on it.

@Rico – I agree; ingenuity is called for. But sometimes ingenuity involves spending a few bucks and saving yourself half a day.

@Michael K – If you do contract work on the side, are building a product, or spend time with your family, then every minute has value. Most people value their non-work time at a higher value than the time they spend at work.

#21 Thomas Lie on 08.11.09 at 1:25 pm

good article, rob (or should i say good advice for the open source community to compete against proprietary system – see http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10307348-16.html)

i agree with some of your points, especially that open source sometimes is time consuming. for that reason, baliboss.com is born to help.

however, i believe open source is not to be competed, we complement each other. in the long run, you would waste your time. because it is everywhere, google flourishes because of open source, facebook too http://developers.facebook.com/opensource.php, even the whole internet is built on open source. also, your website runs on apache, another open source project http://whois.domaintools.com/softwarebyrob.com. if you’re going to compete, why don’t you just use microsoft iis?

last fact to backup my point, even the biggest proprietary corporate, microsoft is now turning to open source with their codeplex project.

open source is about change, change is not comfortable but people can learn. just like when the internet was born, we had to learn how to use email, how to download, etc… but now it’s part of daily lives. today, proprietary may hold 90% vs 10% open source (just guessing), but one day it may be 50-50, or when the generation change it maybe the other way round 10-90 open.

the biggest and most monopoly corporate has “given up” competing, why do people think they can compete with individual power.

so folks, don’t compete, but embrace open source. otherwise you will compete with the community of the whole world.

#22 Rob on 08.11.09 at 1:37 pm

@Thomas – Well put. But my post is not a manifesto on whether open source software is better than commercial software on moral or ethical grounds, or whether we should embrace change, etc…

If you want to talk high-level ideals and theory, I wish all the software I used was open source, and I personally support open source projects both with my time and my money.

But this post is a practical look at why many open source projects do not gain mass acceptance even though they are cheaper than their commercial competition.

For apache: the reason I use it is because a) I don’t have to deal with it – my web host handles all of the apache administration and b) I would classify apache as one of the exceptions I mentioned in the post – one of the projects that has gained a critical mass of talented developers and has broken through the typical open source ceiling.

#23 Sean Harlow on 08.11.09 at 2:08 pm

Two things bug me about this post. First, why pick specifically on open source? All of your complaints apply equally to just as many freeware programs and many commercial applications (ever worked on a vertical market app? most are absolute crap).

Also, relating to dependencies, if you’re still fighting with those (especially on PHP or Perl) get out of the stone age and use a modern distro. On my Debian and Ubuntu boxes I open aptitude or Synaptic, select the modules I want, and hit go. If it needs to get some settings from me it asks, otherwise it just goes through and magically I have those modules installed seconds or minutes later with all dependencies handled.

Contrast this to when I install .Net apps on even a slipstreamed XP SP3 system, if it’s using .net 3.0 I have to go out and manually install it. On Linux that’s handled for me automatically.

Dependency hell is a relic of the past.

#24 Paco on 08.11.09 at 4:25 pm

Installing subversion costed an hour. It was so easy that none of use needed to read any documentation to use it after installation. Maintaining it costs nothing. Why would switching to vault save me time?
Sometimes closed software can safe you time, but that’s an argument for open source software as well. Some products are just better than the others. I won’t use your argument to choose between open and closed-source software, but I use it to choose between software, no matter if I have to pay or not.

Your argument is not open-source vs close source specific

#25 Rob on 08.11.09 at 4:51 pm

@Paco – Then why would anyone buy Vault? Why does SourceGear sell millions of dollars worth of licenses each year instead of going bankrupt trying to compete against Subversion?

#26 Paco on 08.11.09 at 4:58 pm

@Rob – There probably are very good reasons to buy vault, but I need to take time to figure out what they are. (Making vault cost me more money because time is money) I have nothing against vault it self, just against the argumentation you use here. Spending more time and money while evaluating a product can make you choose a different product.

#27 Sean Tierney on 08.11.09 at 5:12 pm

Rob, Amen to this post. I think of it like this: you know those plastic tubs with the pre-cut cantaloupe slices in the grocery store? Thrifty, time-endowed shoppers like my mother are incredulous that anyone would pay $6 for those pre-cut slices when they could get a whole melon for $.70 and cut it themselves. Those are the same people that can spend a day to setup an entire software stack from scratch and then devote time to doing dependency resolution, maintaining plugins, periodically applying patches & upgrades, etc.

At JumpBox we’ve “domesticated” open source server software to provide the “pre-cut cantaloupe convenience” for those people that value time over money. Proprietary vendors can compete against OSS but they need to embrace and emphasize that time/money tradeoff you point out. I would say there is also a hard barrier that’s expertise-related and precludes certain people from ever using OSS that can also be a selling point for a proprietary vendor. But in general you’re right, it comes down to trading time for money and realizing what you provide. good post.

Sean

#28 How to compete against commercial competition at Ben Scofield on 08.11.09 at 5:42 pm

[...] Walling makes basically one very good point in his post “How to Compete Against Open Source Competition,” and that point is this: Open source software is free if your time is worth [...]

#29 Rob on 08.11.09 at 5:53 pm

If you haven’t done so already, read Ben Scofield’s trackback post (comment #28, immediately above this one).

It applies the three competitive advantages I named to the open source world. It’s a good post for open source developers competing with commercial products.

I also like his conclusion:

“The bottom line is that software needs to be better, regardless of whether it’s open source or commercial. Everything we install or use has costs, be they cash, time, or stress. The goal is to minimize those costs as a whole; the balancing act between the different types of cost is up to each of us.”

#30 jose on 08.11.09 at 6:26 pm

I have to completely disagree with you. There is good commercial software and bad commercial software. As is there good OSS and bad OSS programs.

I don’t think you know what you are talking about. It takes 15 min to do a complete ubuntu(or any linux) installation. Windows gives as much problems as linux, e.g two days ago my sister in law had a problem with windows on update, videos appeared dark, we installed service packs, codecs, no way. It took an entire day of my time!!!

I have had 8 computers, used all windows from 3.1 to vista and let me tell you that TODAY IS EASIER AND FASTER TO SOLVE PROBLEMS ON LINUX.

I will use whatever software is best for the job, but your article seems was wrote in 2000. As someone pointed out, it’s way faster to write a book on Latex than word, to process and modify thousands or millions of files, and do real work on Unix.

#31 Jason Cohen on 08.11.09 at 6:41 pm

Open source software is free like a puppy is free.

(No money to buy, but time, money, and attention for life.)

At Smart Bear the biggest reason people used our software is (a) active development, (b) we answered the phone and fixed their bugs, (c) we always had more features because of (a) and (b).

Of course there’s always exceptions — no one would argue Apache Tomcat or Linux isn’t a marvel. But most people want Mac X instead of BSD, that’s the point.

P.S. (d) Open source software’s UI is usually an afterthought, whereas commercial software can be the other way around.

#32 Ben Scofield on 08.11.09 at 7:16 pm

Rob, thanks for the pointer to my response. I’m always excited when there’s dialogue between the commercial and open source camps, as I think there’s a lot more similarity between them than is often discussed.

#33 Rob on 08.11.09 at 7:43 pm

@jose – There is good commercial software and bad commercial software, and good and bad open source software.

My assertion is that the percentage of applications that install quickly, have good documentation and support, and are easy to use, is much higher in the commercial software world than in the open source world.

#34 Knowtu » links for 2009-08-11 on 08.11.09 at 9:05 pm

[...] How to Compete Against Open Source Competition | Software by Rob (tags: software business) [...]

#35 How to Compete Against Open Source Competition | Software by Rob | New Software on 08.11.09 at 9:18 pm

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#36 Matthew Janulewicz on 08.12.09 at 2:34 am

The absurdity of buying ‘a better SourceSafe’ aside … :)

Mr. Cohen (reply #31) hits the nail right on the head, especially with point (b). BTW, Jason is the only vendor i’ve ever heard (p4 conference) recommend using a ‘competing’ open source product ‘if that’s what you need’.

Day to day, I’m in charge of running a mission critical system and I would not trust it to open source software in it’s current, not-too-supported state. Subversion is an awesome tool but I’d hate do be ‘that guy’ that finds a critical bug in it. Good luck getting that fixed in a timely manner. Forget calling someone on the phone and getting a timely workaround.

It’s not just *my* time, but everyone else’s time that will be affected by the outage. The entire QA department in the games division can’t test the latest game, all of RnD is down so our internal artists can’t get that bugfix, the render farm stops working. An hour of downtime of any one of these groups where I work can literally mean losses of millions of dollars.

The *right* software is the one that is of higher quality and has a better support system around it. If your company wants to pay you to maintain someone else’s software and you’re an expert, then fine. Perhaps you should be working for the software vendor, then. The bottom line where I work is that even if I could fix critical problems (that frankly almost never come up), it will take me longer that the expert support at the vendor for this ‘competing’ product to Subversion (free plug for Perforce!) The ‘savings’ of not spending a few hundred dollars and using open source instead is far outweighed by the direct monetary loss.

Other places I have worked, no problem. Use open source. A whole day of downtime might not be a big deal. But in the vertical market of source control software, the commercial options are far better and far less buggy than any open source version control software I’ve seen.

Sorry to ramble on, but I think you ‘Linux’ guys are funny. I’ve been using Linux for 12 years or so, and have used many distros. I like how you all interchangeably use ‘Linux’ and ‘Ubuntu’ and ‘Debian’. They’re all different things, of course. Linux is the kernel, that’s it.

I can ask 10 Linux nerds, including myself, whether or not Linux is ‘easy’ and they all say ‘Yes, download nnn distro …’. It took me three distros to find decent 64-bit support on my laptop here. Try asking your mom or little sister to do that. Here’s how the conversation in Best Buy would go:

My Mom: “My son told me I should get a laptop with Linux on it.”

Best Buy Guy: “Do you prefer Ubuntu or RedHat?”

My Mom: “Mmmm. The first one sounds funner.”

Best Buy Guy: “Do you prefer KDE or Gnome?”

My Mom: “Where do you keep the Macs?”

A particular distro is easy *for you* because you have the experience. It’s easy for *me* because I don’t mind trying three distros until I find one that works with all my hardware. It’s *not* easy for everyone else because they’re not hackers. And this is part of the point.

I’m not saying that Windows, or Solaris or BSD is any better or worse, or any easier or harder than Gentoo IN GENERAL, but in the context of a novice, a Mac is certainly the easiest to use and most compatible with everything out of the box. And this aspect of software is a consideration when trying to sell to people over open source. Know what your audience wants and solve *their* problem(s).

#37 Flow » Blog Archive » Daily Digest for August 12th - The zeitgeist daily on 08.12.09 at 5:04 am

[...] Shared How to Compete Against Open Source Competition [...]

#38 Building a business selling open-source software on 08.12.09 at 7:48 am

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#39 links for 2009-08-12 | Yostivanich.com on 08.12.09 at 10:03 am

[...] How to Compete Against Open Source Competition | Software by Rob "Open source software is free if your time is worth nothing." (tags: opensource software programming business marketing) [...]

#40 Steve Hanov on 08.12.09 at 1:51 pm

Thanks, Rob, that’s just what I needed to read right now, while I watch the “stealth mode” checkins of my competitors on sourceforge increase. As a microISV with marketing and sales to deal with, it can be discouraging to compete against college students with unlimited time.

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#44 gorlok on 08.14.09 at 7:51 am

Many open source projects sells support. Organizations, individuals behind FOSS projects aren’t aliens. They have their costs. So, even when open source they can sell premium support for example.
Some needs that support with SLA. Others don’t. Open source software comes with no warranty. And it’s fine. But, if you want/need a SLA, many projects can offer one to you.
Open source and free software fits for everyone. All what you sell with closed software, is valid with open source software, only that you don’t sell an empty box.

#45 Destillat KW33-2009 | duetsch.info - GNU/Linux, Open Source, Softwareentwicklung, Selbstmanagement, Vim ... on 08.14.09 at 7:58 am

[...] How to Compete Against Open Source Competition [...]

#46 Weekend miscellany — The Endeavour on 08.15.09 at 8:58 am

[...] How to compete against open source competition ? X [...]

#47 Anonymous on 01.06.10 at 8:04 am

My comment to the open source community is simple; what motivates developers to work for less than they are worth? Who has convinced these poor, unfortunate souls that they should give away the fruits of their labor instead of selling them? Open source only exists because a few fools have become proselytizing ideologues, tools of those who want to use educated developers for their own purposes without adequate compensation. Smart developers compete. Suckers contribute. Everybody uses whatever saves them the most time or money.

Time is a limited resource for each of us. How much of yours are you willing to give away for free? 40 hours? 1000 hours? Call me. I’ve got code you can write for me for free if you’re interested in being a slave. You can fool yourself into thinking you’re doing something noble and wonderful if you want. You can even convince a few others to believe you, too. Maybe you can convince some of those others to contribute to some of those oh-so-wonderful open source projects I need to use without having to pay for their development as well. Maybe I can convince you suckers to fix some problems I’m having with my roof while you’re at it. Got any open source architects out there, or open source surgeons? Any open source lawyers or open source grocers? How about open source power? Open source water? Why are you nutcases attacking just one industry?

#48 Competing With Open Source Software | Hussein's Thoughts on 06.10.10 at 11:53 pm

[...] How to Compete Against Open Source Competition [...]

#49 Project Planning – Part 1 — War On Pants on 08.09.10 at 1:06 pm

[...] from one step to the next.  Source code may not seem like much because it’s free.  Rob Walling once said, “Open source software is free if your time is worth nothing.”  The same [...]

#50 Jonny on 09.07.10 at 9:03 pm

Quite interesting some of the views on OSS. I don’t mind Eclipse, I understand it and it’s extremely powerful and packed full of features. IntelliJ IDEA is a bit better I think. GIMP isn’t that bad, but I found it isn’t as savvy and mature as the commercial alternatives. Linux in general is fun to play with, and Ubuntu is pretty.

That said, I am against OSS. This is partially because I’ve learned some hard lessons on saving time. Money grows back, but time doesn’t. Commercial alternatives offer better service and reliability and the scope of vision is larger than a mere “shiny toy” of a product with a “witty” name (e.g. Drupal, GIMP, Ruby, Mambo, Ubuntu, Eclipse, FireFox, FireBug).

Additionally, I have my own algorithms that I intend to patent, get rich off of, and retire because I’m not afraid to be frank and admit that I want to retire comfortably. I am simply not going to give my power away along with my IPR. I expect and deserve to be compensated for my expenditures.

There’s also the annoying habit OSS developers have of giving unsolicited software advice and knowledge. I get the sense the motives have less to do with my needs and more to do with their own ideologies.