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August 10, 2007 » 11:07 am

MySQL, Open Source, and Trust

When Jonathan Cheyer wasn’t working with me and Brad Neuberg on HyperScope, he was scrapping away at his day job as Solid Information Technology‘s Open Source community manager. Despite having to deflect my endless teasing about revoking his hacker membership card for becoming a “marketing guy,” he’s been an excellent source of stories and insights about the nature of Open Source communities and collaboration. (I’m less concerned about his hacker cred than I am about him being a die-hard Celtics fan. Sad, very sad.)    (MII)

Jonathan recently blogged about some controversy surrounding MySQL AB‘s decision not to distribute source tarballs of its Enterprise Edition. Why is this seemingly minor move such a big deal? He explains:    (MIJ)

It’s about the importance of being earnest in what you do. Being an open source company is about a lot more than just slapping a GPL license on your software and handing it out. It’s about building a relationship with the community that is using, playing, testing, and improving your software. As anyone who is married knows well, this can only be done through ongoing, continual trust and transparency between the two parties. Trust is built by being dependable, and by telling the other person things that sound honest and real. Trust is improved by transparency, which is opening yourself to the other person. Adding an artificial means of inconvenience to the community in obtaining bits does nothing to help customers and only reduces transparency as seen by the community.    (MIK)

I’m amazed at how often good companies with a strong understanding of Open Source forget this. I think it’s indicative of the ongoing tensions that businesses must balance, and it speaks even more favorably of companies that manage to consistently uphold their Open Source values even in the face of these difficult tensions.    (MIL)

I don’t have any first-hand insights into MySQL as an Open Source project. I do know that it’s been a model in the community for doing commercial Open Source for a long time, and I know a bunch of great folks who are involved in that community, Jonathan included. Jonathan sums it up best when he writes:    (MIM)

MySQL AB has been working with the open source community for a long time and a lot of good things have been accomplished as a result of that. There is much to applaud. Along the way, there have been occasional mistakes, and this is one of those times. MySQL risks alienating a community that has been very supportive of them by a misguided move in in their quest to “get more customers”. Make money, make as much as you can, but while you do, don’t forget the lesson of being earnest in your endeavors and staying true to your community.    (MIN)

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