Open Source and the Auto Industry: A non-technical analysis

I was at a tailgate this past weekend and ran across a cornhole player who asked me what Open Source means. He worked for the Air Force as an analyst. Since he wasn’t allowed to tell me about his work (that secret type of work), our game conversation was mostly about what I do. That’s how we got on the subject of Open Source.

I suddenly realized that I did not have a non-technical explanation of Open Source handy. I thought for a second and came up with a statement that didn’t hit the mark very well. Back in the office on Monday, I talked it over with our team and came up with the following:

“Picture an auto industry with parts that are interchangeable across all makes and models. Also, the tools to make those parts are free.”

Although I think that this hits the mark, the next question is: So what? Why should business owners care?

I’ve been involved in proprietary software most of my career, but since I’ve been involved with this great team at Buckeye Interactive (didn’t mean to make a plug, just have to give you the reference on my change of philosophy), I’ve quickly come to learn the value of Open Source through first-hand experience.

I’ve watched developers and software engineers not only create great products quickly with Open Source tools, but also – maybe most importantly – watched them quickly find answers to complex development issues. The Open Source community is literally thousands of individuals that help each other by making their software components available for all, or lending a helping hand through forums by answering posted questions from other developers and engineers.

Since I’m fairly new to the Open Source community, I thought I’d offer insights from a real veteran. Check out this blog post by Frank Wiles (@fwiles) of Revolution Systems.

My suggestion for reading the article is to read from the beginning down to the examples, then skip to the “Keeping Control of your Business Through Open Source Software” heading. Read the rest of the post, then jump back to the examples.

I was a bit surprised (even though I’ve lived it) that reliability is one of the major assets of Open Source. I look forward to learning more about the value of Open Source for my customers from comments to this post and the experts that I work with day-in and day-out.

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