Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Highly questionable

I've been looking at a lot of social enterprises lately and I am not surprised to find that there are a fair number of wolves in sheep's clothing out there. Or, perhaps worse, they basically just don't get it.

Take Giving Tree. Their mission is to bring philanthropy to the masses. And to make sure that they are the only ones that can bring it to the masses (at least using the word microphilanthropy).

Or so it would seem from their trademark on the term "microphilanthropyTM" Do they intend to sue nonprofits that support microenterprise for trademark infringment if they use the term microphilanthropy?

If your mission is to bring philanthropy to the masses, then do it, engage with others, create a bigger pie rather than using old and tired legal strategies for hamstringing the competition.

Give me a break. Tacky. Tacky. Tacky.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The term "open source" officially meaningless in the nonprofit sector


So I'm reading this NP Times article. The word open source is used 20 times.

Gene Austin (Convio) has a fairly hilarious quote:

"I think the confusion in open source in our market is that people look at vendors like us that have proprietary applications, and say that they're not believers in open source, and that cannot be further from the truth because we use those technologies to assemble and build a great application," Austin said.
First, technically, he is right. Second, few in the NPO sector probably gets the hilarity. :( And third, give me a break. Using open source tools and software to build proprietary products doesn't mean they are believers in open source.

The Open Source Initiative has a great quote on their home page:
The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.
I would venture that Convio believes in open source because it helps them lock in customers for a lower capital outlay. Simple as that. P.S. ANY SaaS (software as a service) vendor's EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) gets better the better as they lock in more and more customers.

The beacon of light in the article is, as ever, Holly Ross.
The question isn't really about open source, but about openness.
And this is the crux. Open source and openness (e.g. open APIs) can both contribute to lock in. Open source by giving proprietary vendors cheaper ways to build their solutions, and openness by making making other applications dependent. Salesforce is an absolute poster child for the lock in strategy (for their commercial customers)... to use AppExchange applications, APEX, or any of the other stuff in their ecology, you must pay Salesforce.

None of this is bad. Customers are getting better products that do more things that they need. It's just the concept that proprietary vendors would cloak themselves as supporters of open source software that irks me. :)