Friday, October 26, 2007

A kinder, gentler open source CEO

CEO dinners are usually pretty airless affairs - when you get that many egos in one room, there's not much room left for oxygen. Open source CEOs are a different bunch. They don't have that kind of rabid/scary elevator pitch thing going where they have to convince you in 15 seconds or less to give them all your money.

This week I attended an Open Source CEO dinner put on by Andrew Aitken of the Olliance Group and Mark Radcliffe of DLA Piper. What struck me at this dinner was how relaxed and interesting it was.

Following the management maxim, "the fish rots from the head down" I conclude from my dinner that the open source industry itself is a kinder, gentler place. Here are a few thoughts on why this would be so:
  • Collaboration is a business mindset. Open source CEOs don't see every other CEO/company as an enemy in their zero-sum strategy to take over the known software universe. They bring a community-minded approach not just to their technical work but also to their business activities.
  • Open source popularity is based on customer pull, not PR push. The popularity of an open source company is measured by SourceForge, not by amount of hot air emitted by the CEO and their PR machine. I don't meant to imply that these CEOs cannot be as arrogant as their proprietary brethren, just that they don't get the opportunity to spout off if nobody is downloading their products. Proprietary company CEOs can spout off as long as they can find a VC to foot the bill.
The open source world is still a very young industry. Mainstream technology companies now have lobbyists and stadiums named after them and all the other trappings of established businesses. No doubt the day will come when even open source CEO dinners become dull and lifeless affairs, but I sincerely hope those days are a long ways off.


Anonymous said...

Maybe open source CEOs are nicer because they know they're never going to make the kind of money that the closed source guys made!

Christopher Keene said...

Matt Asay had a nice riff on this entry on his Open Road blog at CNet.

He says, "You can't take this too far - there are jerks in open source just as there are in the proprietary software world. But I do think there's something to Chris' contention (ironic diction intended). The people I know in the open-source world are fiercely competitive...without being fierce. They are intent on winning without being obnoxious."

Anonymous said...

Hopefully this means you won't develop a penchant for frivilous patent lawsuits like you did when you were CEO of PRSW.

Christopher Keene said...

My mistake at Persistence was not in filing the patent lawsuits but in lacking the guts to file the lawsuit against the company that had stolen our IP. Having said that, I also learned that patent lawsuits are subject to the golden ruling - he who has the most gold for lawyers gets the ruling in his favor!