Open source needs to move to Open Business

When simplicity or logic creates new thought, I get excited.  I know I can spend more time than necessary trying to dissect some esoteric principle, partly out of might to achieve some intellectual challenge, partly out of the hope of finding a new perspective.

Umair Haque wrote(Harvard Publishing) a simple yet meaningful post:

“…our research at the Lab notes, the fact is: companies who can build authentic, honest, open, collaborative relationships with consumers are significantly more profitable (and sustainably profitable) than companies who treat consumers deceptively, antagonistically, and manipulatively.

I can’t help but reflect on my own evolution working for an open source software company.  Having spent years at Oracle where code, IP, and competition fed the machine, suddenly at open source it was about something different.  Well sort of.

The code, roadmaps, what we’re working on, our audience, our license practices, etc., all might be different and “open”, but thats about the extent of it.  Customers still don’t know what other customers are spending on our software, who is using what, are we growing, are we saving customers money, who is happy and who isn’t.  There is still a lot of traditional business practices at play that put the customer at the same disadvantage as anywhere else.

So when I read Umair’s simple statement(based on some data that I hope to see produced since there is a reference to a ‘lab’), I can’t help but think about my own personal loyalty experience.  When I buy I repeat for a variety of reasons.  The first is product, then service, then price, and then there are several difficult to tweeze soft benefits like convenience, price, do I like the people, is it clean, do I trust them?  Trust is subconsciously built into many of my most loyal buying decisions.

Think about how many times you need to get ripped off or screwed by a vendor before you stop using their service.  For many its once, for others its a couple times, but most often all will move on in due time based on a combination of poor service and/or a break in trust.  So while we are “thinking differently” in this era of leverage fakery that has cost us literally trillions of dollars, why can’t trust and Open Business be the new economic paradigm?

Most businesses “hide” their worth, their practices, the real goings on for three reasons.  Leverage, greed, and competitive advantage.  Where is the customer found in those 3 statements?  Companies can’t tell you what thee other customers are paying for because not everyone is paying the same price.  They can’t tell you what products are in use because it might highlight a weakness for Wall Street to take material offense with.  They can’t share if their customers are dissatisfied unless the customers take it upon themselves and find some other outlet to socialize.

In an era of broken trust, dreams, and paper wealth, why can’t we sort of start over?  Is it too difficult to envision really well run companies who run “openly” AND succeed?  What would happen if everyone, and I do mean everyone, knew how Apple was doing, or Google, or Microsoft?  Will they be viewed as social softies with stagnant stock prices?  I don’t think so.  I think speculation still works against the strategy and trajectory of the company where future valuation is still worth something.  Open Business can clean the house of those companies that prop up weak product lines with strong ones.

I know at Oracle, the Database option RAC was always a big questionby the analysts, how many are using it?  It was untrackable because it was not represented in the 10k, it wasn’t in Order Entry.  Smart decision if you don’t want to publically track something.  For years analysts would speculate based on personal networks, published case studies(many of which could be propped), and other mechanisms.  The decision to NOT TRACK a product to protect those 3 reasons is not an Open Business.  Its an “opt in” model, companies can choose to join or not.  I wonder then what sort of customer loyalty and collaboration we would see?

More questions, new thoughts, simple logic.

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