While you were out…

I’m back early from a mere week of vacation at the sea, and it seems quite some stuff has happened during those few days of poor Internet connection:

  • for one, talking about paradigm shifts, for the first time I found myself with (much!) more backlog in my aggregator than in my inbox.  Sign of the times, I guess.
  • SCO has just 25 days left before being delisted, after their stock plummeted when their stupid legal fight finally got turned down. If you invested in the legal firm disguised as a software company, you’re now getting what you really asked for: a big failure.
  • everyone is talking about the Citrix/XenSource deal which followed the dotcom-bubble reminiscent VMware IPO. As a side note, one of our Xen servers crashed the hard way right after the announcement. Still, virtualization matters.
  • meanwhile, Sourcefire continues their tradition of slippery-slope announcements by stating the acquisition of the ClamAV project. How on earth can you acquire an Open Source project kinda beats me, but hey, welcome to PR!
  • as anticipated, Microsoft has posted two licenses for OSI approval. Big yawn. All we’ve got is a couple of MPLish and LGPLish legalese vanity exercises. Unfortunately, as it was to be expected, instead than turning the submission down as it doesn’t bring anything new other than more proliferation, the discussion has shifted on why should the OSI bless the poster child of OSS bashing. Oh well, more on that later I guess.
  • Dana Blankenhorn has some interesting insights on why Sun is possibly abandoning the server business. No ships have been burnt as of yet, but while it might seem a bit far fetched, I can see how considering Sun a software company would make some sense indeed. Assuming they stop spreading FUD, that is.
  • Stefano doesn’t blog much as of late, but when he does, it’s a must read. While I’m not quite sold on de-centralized version control systems, his points on the combination of being overprotective against new stuff and missing important community building issues are spot on.
  • Erlang seems to be picking up quite a bit, as if we needed further evidence to understand why distributed, concurrent programming is going to be (one of) the Next Big Thing. Time to buy the book, I guess, assuming I don’t get sucked into spreadsheets too fast (alas, given I will be on a plane on Wednesday, this definitely seems to be the case. But it’s good to make propositions).

One more day of vacation, which will be spent into making huge quantities tomato sauce, pesto and more from the humongous supply of real vegetables we bought on our way back, then it’s back to business. Even though just looking at my upcoming travel agenda is enough to make me scream, the amazing stuff in front of me is making me eager to start another long stretch of working days. Looking forward to the next vacation, though.

Timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes

(for the Latin challenged: the title comes from Vergilius’ Aeneis and it translates to "I fear the Greek, even when they’re bringing gifts")

I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. The blogosphere is full of comments about Microsoft going to submit (some of) their licenses to the OSI for approval, and everyone seems to be wary of what could be Redmond’s secret agenda.

While having Microsoft join the Open Source bandwagon through the front door looks, erm, weird, and I’m not that naive to think that there are no weird motives behind it and we just hit the "then you win" phase, I really don’t understand what is all the fuss about. The plain truth is, there is nothing in the OSI bylaws that forbids Microsoft to go through the ordeal of community review on license-discuss (that is until the OSI board congregates behind closed doors), and I don’t even see how such a protective attitude is going to do any good to Open Source as a whole.

The OSI is there to check license compliance, hidden agendas notwithstanding. It’s as easy as that. There are no weapons other than the OSD big bazooka (and the license proliferation sling) to forbid organizations to submit a proposal and have their license approved. This is why Microsoft’s license submission is going to be the ultimate Litmus test for our beloved organization: if (if!) the Open Source Definition is strong and comprehensive enough, having another license will not make any substantial damage. If (big if!) the OSI is strong enough, it will survive the 800pound gorilla just fine. And if none of that is the case, well, too bad but we will move on anyways.

Meanwhile, trying to understand what’s behind this Microsoft move is OK as long as it doesn’t taint the evaluation process, assuming there will be such a thing: it’s time to let the dust settle, see what Redmond really wants to submit, and, assuming all the standard OSD conditions are met, try to understand if there is anything worth the effort of leaving license proliferation issues behind. I strongly doubt that’s the case, but that’s the only ground where Microsoft will be fair game. Anything else such as rejecting the submission just because it comes from someone with a bad track record or because of potential hidden strategies we’re not aware of, will just backlash in the end.

iWork 08, anyone?

Looks like iWork08 is out. As a Keynote-addict and an SCM freak, I’m wondering if Apple got it right this time, and the software is now overwriting files within the stupid .key bundle instead than wiping the whole thing away and saving it again from scratch, therefore killing the .svn directory and making me curse Apple bundles altogether.

That alone would make my life much easier, and our corporate Subversion repository much more manageable: thus far, the only alternative I’ve got is tar’ing up the .key folder which, as you can imagine, is far from being optimal. As I don’t see any other compelling reasons for an upgrade (I’m not using Pages, and I’m not interested in yet another spreadsheet program), I would appreciate feedback from some early adopter before exercising my credit card…

Pay peanuts, get monkeys

It’s just one of those long and tiresome days when you come home and you start wondering about the beauty of carrot farming. Dear customer, I do love you and I appreciate your help in paying my bills, but sometimes you just manage to make me wonder whether it’s me getting it all wrong or you being shortsighted as a mole.

While I do understand how negotiation is important in the same cycle, you just don’t seem to realize how improvident it is to constantly ask for price cuts in professional services. See, IT is a strange beast: engineers are not fungible matter, and the value added by an IT services shop isn’t in providing you with between 1.3 and 1.4kg of brain cells that you can freely swap with someone else’s. Every company is different, with a different approach in recruiting, training and managing people: our task is leveraging the craftsmanship of the single person and providing some kind of common ground when it comes to methodologies, tools and infrastructure.

What you are buying from us is our ability to scout, coach and organize people. Start giving us some credit and consider that we know about market rules and rates, we know about economic equilibrium and our price list does reflect all that: it just includes a different secret sauce of training, skills, methodologies and intangible value added. Maybe, just maybe, we are not trying to rip you off: feel free to question us and understand the value we want to provide you. Don’t take our word for it. Be reckless in evaluating our skills Give us a lot of grief in proving our value. Have your IT staff grill us and understand if we’re worth our price. You might find out how asking for a fourth revision of the same offer and saving those 3.57€ per hour isn’t going to make any good in the end.

I can understand you want to shave every penny from your toilet paper supplies. I will sympathize when you tell me how you managed to strangle your hardware dealer. Heck, I will even have a laugh at the hard time you gave to your software vendors. All those guys are selling goods: they have different economic motivations, their pricing structure is built upon different terms and they have a lot of different ways to recoup from your price cuts. Moreover, once the negotiation is a thing of the past and the merchandise has been delivered, it will make little difference how much you paid for it and whether your supplier is disgruntled.

Things are different with services, though: what you are building is a lasting relationship with companies who work on an almost linear cost basis. If we come to help you building part of your IT infrastructure, we want to be your partner and have a mutual trust and a reciprocal motivation to work together. We will be with you for quite a while, and you definitely want us to be motivated and eager to help. If you’re strangling us, we might say yes for a number of reasons, but don’t expect us to be happy, collaborative beyond professionalism, and willing to go the extra mile.

When price is your foremost concern, the vicious cycle of IT services is going to bite you in no time flat: you will get overestimated engineers, little support when problems arise, demotivated people, underpaid programmers, untrained teams and sub-par performance. We will be in enduring friction and eager to leave if we get another gig on better terms. Your chances of a late and over budget project will increase dramatically, and you shouldn’t be that much appalled if someone gets as far as performing some creative accounting on worked hours when you’re not looking.

In a word, you will get what you’re paying for. Think about it, the next time you have a services offer in front of you.

Congratulations Paolo!

Sourcesense doesn’t have (yet) an "employee of the month" billboard but, if we had one, choice would be quite easy now. Paolo Mottadelli, one of our Cocoon/Alfresco/HippoCMS engineers, has just shown us how being a dedicated and passionate guy can bring impressive results by winning the Italian Decathlon Championships: time to celebrate!

I am constantly amazed by the impressive commitment and hard work that Paolo is able to pull out from his two-sided life. It takes something special for being a kick-ass enterprise engineer and a world class athlete in one of the hardest track ‘n fields events. Then again, Sourcesense people are a special breed, aren’t they?

Great stuff Paolo: we’ll be constantly keeping an eye on your athletics career and we definitely expect more great stuff to happen!