And the reason is...

Sat Jun 20 15:11:35 2009

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...after slipping them a few valiumesque palliatives (and in the occasional case a drink that may hit like a slice of lemon wrapped around an aforeknown gilded building material)...

My business partner this week has been musing on the contribution he has made to the Perl Community and to Open Source Software as a whole. So while he has been doing that I thought it might be a good time to say a few words about the contribution our clients have made to OSS.

To State (as John Cleese would) the Bleeding Obvious...

Shadowcat's clients are generally people who are already using Perl in their business, or are people who have a significant presence in web-based services, so are often using software that is Open Source. One or two have been people running proprietary systems with maybe an Apache install or cgi scripts.

For the most part then our clients are clued-up about Open Source and the implications for using, or rather since a lot of our earlier conversations are with technical staff they are clued up on Open Source and the use of it. However, at some point we will issue our standard contract with its wonderful section seven which details intellectual property and the contribution Shadowcat makes to the open-source community and projects.

Sometimes...not that often really...but sometimes, at this point a manager, or a member of the legal team of a company, will be reading the contract and they will suddenly panic.

Birthing the purple kittens...

So what is actually causing them to have to birth the purple kittens of shock and awe? It is the group of paragraphs where we quite openly declare that we will be contributing back to the community the altered modules and libraries that are created or adjusted for their project. Though we don't actually say that. They just think we do. And they will often contact me in a slight flap of consternation as to whether this means that a community (or as some may believe a bunch of barely-human Trotskyite communists, or free-loving, mescaline-imbued anarcho-terrorists) is going to do with their business product.

So after slipping them a few valiumesque palliatives (and in the occasional case a drink that may hit like a slice of lemon wrapped around an aforeknown gilded building material) I sit down and explain in calm, soothing tones. What the actual situation is.

Section Seven: We all stand together...

What the infamous Section Seven in fact says, and this is a very brief discussion of it, is that in creating their project, or developing their code, we will be using OSS and community-maintained projects. It also explains that we contribute altered modules and libraries back to the community to help further those projects that we are all benefiting from. It also lets them know that it is -their- (important emphasis) choice of how much we contribute back to the community. We make it clear what OSS licences are and where they can find copies, of the need for transparency in code and the value in distributing the source code with the project. But, we also make it plain that if they so wish we will develop proprietary modules and libraries and we will create code that they can copyright and patent as long as this is expressed before we begin work so that we can take steps to ensure we do not breach community licences.

We also let them know how much longer the development will be and how that will affect costs as there will be a certain level of re-inventing the wheel so as not to breach ownership. Also a big selling point is that modules that are released to the community become part of projects that are community-maintained and often are evolved and tested without cost. Not to mention the transparency and the fact that they can hire other people to work on their codebase not just people certified by one company.

The surprising thing is, well it isn't really that surprising, that once they understand this...once they grok us and join up to our anarcho-commie-hippie-perp communes, they start to really like it. Even jaded business-types with one eye on the time sheet and the other on the expenses column, and a third eye probably closed and dreaming of the bonus for coming in under budget (boss Nirvana), start to appreciate the benefits. Suddenly the purple prose of popularist patent-promoting proprietary passionate publicists (say that fifteen times quickly) becomes less important and they start to linger in the shoals of the open-source-software seas.

So, I, would like to take the time to thank all our clients. Past and present. For without them I doubt that modules, libraries and projects would look the same, certainly our contribution would not be the same. For, although, we would love to just spend all our days working on OSS and furthering the grand communities and people we work with, we would in fact starve. Our clients are the ones who come with us on this journey of OSS and Perl. They are the ones who understand our need to create and work in this manner. Many of them come to passionately support it in the manner we do (though I am sure a few weep at the fact that it doesn't have an index-linked investment matrix).

So I salute you...all of you...and thank you deeply, for all that has been past and all that will be.

(Eventhough at some point I may be trying to sell Enlightened Perl to you and the need for you to support us all in the community a little more :).)


If anyone has feedback (and until we have a commenting system) please don't hesitate to email me at: m.keating [at] shadowcat.co.uk, if your comments are useful, fun, or just plain interest to me, or if I think will be useful to others, then I will add them to the end of this post, let me know how you would like to be named (anon, nick etc.).


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Mark Keating is: Managing Director of Shadowcat Systems Limited
Director and Secretary of Enlightened Perl Organisation
Co-Founder/Co-Leader of North-West England Perl Mongers
Work Blog: Mark Keating on Shadowcat
Public Blog: Mark Keating on Vox
LinkedIn Profile: Mark Keating on LinkedIn
My Homepage: Mark Keating's Personal site