Originally Published: Tuesday, 30 May 2000 Author: David J. Jacques
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Is There a Payday in Open Source?

So what are we to do now? We have been given this profound gift that is open source software. Now it's time to figure out what to do with it. There are a lot of companies and organizations that are groping around looking for a way to profit.

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So what are we to do now? We have been given this profound gift that is open source software. Now it's time to figure out what to do with it. There are a lot of companies and organizations that are groping around looking for a way to profit. This is a positive thing as even the people that gave us this gift feel this way. I've read expressions of frustration as to what kind of opportunities exist. It seems obvious to me. This is however my opinion and I could be wrong.

First of all, let me point out a few things that are obvious and seem to be overlooked. Most computer vocations are neither glamorous or rocket science. You are going to have to do that stuff on your own time. You can probably find a job that fits in this category, but then you are searching for a job and not an opportunity, and there you are on your own. Secondly not all businesses are fortune 500 companies there are literally millions of companies in this country (U.S.A.) that gross only a few million dollars a year. Thirdly if you suck you starve.

You have to know your craft. There is no such thing as a one size fits all solution. I have spent the last two years investigating and studying Linux. I am not ready yet to commercially support it so I don't. I don't intend to go out there until I can provide turnkey solutions. I know a few webbies and am aware that funds could be had to pursue flaky ideas. This is not the case as much as it was, but you can be sure of this, you are only going to get one shot at it, if at all. So while the web is trendy I don't really see it as a viable opportunity until you've figured out how to eat cooked food, and live indoors successfully. So I guess that means that the real economy is where you have to look.

If I've learned one thing it's that computers by themselves don't make money, they cost money. We are dependent on other smart people that are making money, to want and need our services. After all, that is what they are buying, our knowledge, and skill, is the product. The software is just as free to them as it is to you. Most of the clients that I've dealt with over the years have one common complaint about us "geeks" and that is our approach toward them. My average client has and is ten to twenty years my senior. They have bigger houses nicer cars and more money than I do. They also have their own employees, clients, and businesses. They've learned as you must, that you have to treat people with genuine respect. If a lawyer treated you like an idiot and charged you a hundred bucks an hour for it you would go looking for a more accommodating lawyer. I don't care how smart or good the guy is supposed to be. You also have to be interested in what it is these people are trying to accomplish. Shoving your idea of how they should operate down their throat will get you tossed out on your can. These folks know how to do what it is they do. Your function is to make that easier, faster, and cheaper. Before you can do that, you have to understand what they do and how they operate. They aren't going to pay you for this either. That falls under the category of overhead. It is reasonable to expect a client to express concise objectives but usually you will get something vague initially. The art of creating customized solutions for individual operations using a canned framework is the top of our craft. It is not something that will make you a trillionaire, it will however make you a trusted valued member of your community. You will also make a comfortable living.

I have seen some rather nifty canned solutions getting open sourced. The one that comes to mind initially is free-vet. This product alone creates lots of opportunity for both the vendor, and those who are deploying it. I can also see that product becoming free-doc(tor), free-shrink, free-dentist, free-whatever. This is an avenue that makes sense. Open source a body of code and get fees for customizing it for distributors that deploy it. This is an avenue that I am very interested in. I have installed networks in veterinary practices and know from experience that this is a lucrative market. I would like to make clear though that if you choose to pursue distribution of such a body of work support it! Send these people money, they may not require it, but its only fair. These programs sell for thousands of dollars and you usually have to pay to play. I have a diverse group of clients and have a knack for understanding this stuff so I want to be able to deploy and support more than one discipline. I looked into this a few years back but the barrier to entry was so high I would have had to gamble everything on one line. I hope to see this change. I would encourage more free-yourdiscipline software to spring up. This is a tremendous opportunity. I mean free, as is freedom not as in beer. If it is free as in beer I intend to pay as I go for that too. Remember your suppliers on payday!

Don't bite off more than you can chew. When I was younger and less experienced I gave away the store. I received practice as payment. I failed once and a while, but since no money changed hands I didn't make any enemies. Beware this axiom; News travels fast, BAD NEWS travels faster. Protect your reputation it is all you have. Don't use clients for guinea pigs you will regret it. Make sure you can accomplish what you set out to do. Have a support network in place. You can not go it alone. I have an excellent hardware vendor and I make it a point to bring him breakfast at least once a month. You are in the middle, except and know this. If you don't, I will come along and steal your clients. The customer is everything without them you starve. Your clients are just, if not more, as intelligent, and as successful as you are. Knowledge is power that is true, if you use that power as a weapon you will get thumped. Be confident not arrogant there is a difference.

To sum up my position there is tremendous opportunity derived from open source. It is not a get rich quick scheme. If that is your goal might I suggest "No Money Down Real Estate". You will get out of all of this what you put into it. The only barrier to entry is knowledge and skill. You are going to have to get out into the fray and play by the already established rules. Open source is a license to print money. So lets pursue it and I'll see y'all at the finish line.

David J. Jacques can be reached for response to this column by e-mailing him at: djacques@bellatlantic.net

This article was originally featured in osOpinion is is provided under the OpenContent Public License.

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