Saturday, June 06, 2009

Interactions between soft. libre communities and small free soft. companies

Free software communities are becoming more and more efficient in tasks not directly related with code or self organization. They are evolving into totally new organisms without predecessor. Companies are aware of that and they are getting closer and closer to them. Right now the free software impact cannot be described without the interactions between companies and communities. Sometimes the influence of corporations in some communities is notorious but sometime it is happening the opposite. Mature communities do have a lot of impact in many companies.

Big companies have built strategies to take advantages of this new wave hoping to reach points they haven't been before, trying to get where they used to or simple hoping to stay on top. Every big structure has a lot of resistance for changing and its amazing how many big IT companies looks like they have changed.

An evident question arise, have they really changed?

Back in early 2003 I had a small company. I was surrounded by many free software fans but I wasn't. I had a hard time in college with linux. In fact, I was the main obstacle in my company for evolving to adopt free software principles. We had Red Hat by that time in one of computer labs but it was just due to lack of resources. I still remember some friends of mine telling me how fool I was for using Windows on my loptop.

And then LTSP came into my life ...

My personal evolution toward the basic principles of free software is far from finished. Until a few months ago, I still had a small company so it is easy to figure that its evolution has gone parallel to my personal one. I've been really lucky to be surrounded by smart believers for a long time and that has allowed me to speed up this personal change and, in consequence, my way of doing business.

In my current position, as ASOLIF manager, the federation of free software companies associations, I see the same process in many other companies. Some of them are in early stages of its own evolution, some are mature, some are beginning to question their own methods and the luckiest ones were formed with a clear idea of how to do business in an open way, using free software and interacting with the communities. This last group are the ones that has made ASOLIF possible. They in the front line right now.

Looking back, I realice how hard is changing the behavior of any company. In small companies the influence of their owners is very significant so, like it happened to me, since it takes time to cross the river and reach the other side for any person, it is obvious that it will happen the same to the company itself. It is not like Neo taking the red pill.

Then, how come we see such a strong change in many big IT companies in such a short period? Is it possible or they are just faking? Is it more like a Roman ship with galleys? Is it a marketing policy or their process is fast because it is a matter of surviving? Do they truly believe on the principles of free software or still want to generate gregarious relations with others? Is it possible for them to change the inertia and people's mind so fast?

My new job is putting me in contact with some spanish big IT companies representatives. They have the common lessons well learned, a solid free software speech and the classic unbeatable marketing manners. They know they have a winner combination. They are the face of those companies and it seems they truly believe, understand and support the principles behind free software.

But, what about the heart of those companies? Does it matter for doing business? at the very end of this process, is the actual status quo going to change? How can we change the role of small companies in the future from being just resellers to truly generate technology?

Maybe one of the answers has something to do with the title.