We’ve been long standing fans of open source software development at Learning Pool and we’ve watched with interest some of the developments in the market this year as we’ve embarked on our own Open Source journey with the Adapt Learning Project.
We’ve learned a lot of lessons about working collaboratively to deliver something that changes the game so it’s been interesting to see what’s happened in other sectors… there’s been plenty:
Open source has come to the automotive industry. Earlier this year Tesla, the innovative car manufacturer led by Skype founder Elon Musk decided to open source their battery technology. This kind of innovation hasn’t reached the automotive industry since Henry Ford decided you could have cars that weren’t black!
Open source software really is the norm now. Even Microsoft, the behemoth of proprietary software has opened its core net platform in a game changing move this year that took plenty of people, including Microsoft employees I know by complete surprise. This is a shrewd move though and stops the rot of anti.net feeling and will make this really useful technology more used and so more valuable.
Crypto currencies have moved past being faddish and are now getting some proper traction. You’ve probably heard of bitcoin and the hoopla around this new kind of currency. The emergence of this and other virtual currencies was always going to be rocky since they are so incredibly disruptive. While there’s been lots of ups and downs in 2014, the underlying, open source, software that powers all these alternative currencies has stood up to close inspection.
So what’s driving this?
What are the reasons that open source technology is winning almost every time? There’s lots of well-versed arguments about this and most people are convinced that vendor independence, improved innovation and flexibility are all good things so it’s time for some new reasons.
- It buys good will – our experience of developing Adapt is that we’ve found it really easy to win friends, get help and achieve forgiveness. This means a lot when you are developing something blue sky and makes the project fun to work on as well as rewarding. The power of having people in a community who are prepared to fix issues rather than complain about them is powerful and worth nurturing.
- It makes the bleeding edge more cosy – we made some ambitious technology choices with Adapt that we simply wouldn’t have made if we’d been developing on our own. This means the project has been more technically challenging but now that its nearly complete (as much as projects are ever complete these days) its future proofed, robust and innovative. Especially great value since its completely free for people to use!
- It makes relationships more open – we’ve worked with competitors, friends and strangers on the Adapt project and learned and shared in equal measure to make the project succeed. I don’t think we’ve lost anything by doing this and the openness has certainly paid back time and time again.
- It doesn’t just lead to better products, it makes better industries – At the outset of the Adapt Learning project we committed to helping to make the e-learning industry better. I for one didn’t really appreciate what that meant back then but I’m glad we included it and regardless, we’ve been able to make that happen. Many hundreds of companies, freelancers, students and spectators are using Adapt to build their own projects against some standards we created which we’re really pleased about.
- It encourages quality – I was a systems tester in a former life and have kept with me the experience of having inadequate testing cycles. There’s never enough resource or time for this but in an open source culture this problem does get addressed. There has to be a persistent focus on quality because you don’t know who’ll see your code. You also have the benefit of more beady eyes looking at the code so the quality naturally improves and eventually, customer win.