[Ilugc] Open source and business

Girish Venkatachalam girishvenkatachalam at gmail.com
Wed Jul 25 18:32:17 IST 2012

Very nice points KG

On Wed, Jul 25, 2012 at 4:56 PM, kenneth gonsalves
<lawgon at thenilgiris.com> wrote:
> On Wed, 2012-07-25 at 13:07 +0530, Arun Venkataswamy wrote:
>> Has anybody in this list or people you know - have made money by
>> creating
>> open source products?
> I have. Not much money, but money. My model is like this:
> I offer to build applications for the client, charge what I feel is a
> reasonable sum and convince them that if the software is open source
> from the start it is easier to get people to contribute to it, the code
> is available if I drop dead and it is easy for them to upgrade and debug
> errors. My costs are cut because whenever I am stuck I can always find
> people who are willing to write some code for free (although sometimes I
> pay) because it is open source. I also insist on my clients learning the
> basics of issue management and refuse to do anything unless a proper
> ticket is filed. I do not have to lie to the client about progress and
> never give progress reports. I tell them to look at the repo to see if I
> am doing work or not. The model often fails because the client cannot
> get used to the way I do things. When it succeeds, it works great. The
> client as a co-developer. Note that all my work is web apps (not
> websites).
> Some things I have learned:
> 1. The person I interact with on the client side *must* be the person
> who takes the decisions in the client concern. It does not work if I
> have to interact with an underling.
> 2. The development must be module by module and should go into
> production immediately - if the guy wants the whole thing ready before
> going into production, I decline to do it.
> 3. One has to be extremely flexible with regard to design changes and
> new feature requests. The client may think he knows what he wants, but
> once in production, he may realise he needs something else. One must be
> prepared to rip the guts out of the app and rewrite - without losing
> data.
> 4. I push as much of the work as possible on to the client - he has to
> enter the data (I may make a script to load the data from a spreadsheet,
> but he has to actually get everything ready and run the script). I show
> him how to back up, but he has to do it. Likewise simple upgrades like
> doing hg pull, hg update and restarting the server is his job. Like wise
> for database migration, I give the script - he has to run it.
> 5. Design - he has to hire someone for that. In one case the guy learned
> css and html and did it himself. (it looked horrible, but he was happy).
> There are two reasons why I do this - 1. I am not capable of drawing a
> straight line even with the aid of a computer and 2. design is the one
> field in which the open source methodology does not work. No committee
> or group of people can do good design - one guy has to do it. If he
> needs help, the helpers have to do what they are told - no vote.
> 6. Last and most important - make proper agreements and make sure the
> schedule of payment is met. No pay, no work. The flip side is that when
> they see I am flexible with regard to doing mid course changes and
> adding new features they do not quibble about paying more.
> One of my big successes was building an app for a Finnish NGO working in
> Mumbai. We started with one site and soon several sites in 7 countries
> in the region. The lady in charge of Asia then took a year or two off to
> take a course on how to get things done by IT people. She was shifted to
> Africa and we have now covered 4 countries there. The course she took
> did not help her at all as it was to do with how to extract work from M$
> Weenies. But she has learned issue management - you may look at the
> discussions in the open and closed issues in this project here:
> https://bitbucket.org/lawgon/kenyakids/
> now her bug/feature reporting is as good as most professionals.
> We are soon going worldwide, and quite a few other NGOs are lining up -
> my client is doing the marketing for me (and not asking for commission).
> I have had one spectacular flop also - some members of our LUG will
> remember as they were involved. The flop was due to the fact that I
> ignored most of the principles mentioned above - especially point No 1.
> One last comment - do not write code unless 1. some one pays you or 2.
> you need it for something you want to achieve. You can think of some
> fantastic idea that you think will be the next facebook or will fulfill
> a need that people will pay for - ok, if you must, do it, but do not
> expect to make money from it. As some one said, if people will not pay
> for something, they certainly will take it if it is free.
> --
> regards
> Kenneth Gonsalves
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Gayatri Hitech

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