April 6, 2006

Do We Need Speed?

Well, finally the news is out. The reason things have been so quiet on this blog (and why I've been missing from comp.lang.python pretty much since PyCon) is that all available spare time has been going into trying to get the Need for Speed sprint off the ground. To my knowledge this event is unique, though an assertion like that invites correction from the better-informed.

Commercial organisations are free to use the output from open source projects without putting anything back (vide Industrial Light and Miserliness), and by and large this is expected -- open source licensing terms are fairly explicit, and few are even as "draconian" as the GPL (which currently says in essence that if you distribute GPL-derived products you have to make the source available). By the same token, of course, there's nothing to stop people from supporting open source projects if they want to.

Hopefully this little gap in the curtain will help to trigger a realisation among commercial software developers that they can make a huge difference to open source projects from which they might benefit (or from which they already have benefited) by the application of what are, in strictly commercial terms, relatively modest funds. The various Foundations controlling some of the better-known open source projects do make their own efforts, but without significant external funding (such as that achieved by the PyPy project) and management expertise (extremely variable) it can be difficult to make progress. Heck, even management training might be a useful contribution from the world of pointy hair (I'm sorry, I'll wash my mouth out with soap later).

Of course we'll have to wait and see. It could be that I am completely wrong, that hardly any of the invited developers will bother to come, and that the sprint will really show that open source people don't want to play in the commercial playground at all. In which case I guess I'll have egg on my face.

If I'm right, though, it will show that there are benefits to be had on both sides of the equation and that, although open source developers don't do it primarily for the money, they don't necessarily object to working with commercial developers when there is a sufficient alignment of goals. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given the chance to put this belief to the test, and I can't wait to see how this effort goes.


Anonymous said...

Why wasn't this done through the PSF?

Steve said...

Because the PSF wasn't asked to do it, and I wasn't asked to do it as a Director of the PSF but as a personal business transaction. I did post to the PSF members list before discussing the assignment, receiving three replies in total. My posting plained that I anticipated making a donation to the PSF should the assignment materialise.

Since two current directors and one former director will be attending you can expect the PSF's interests will be fairly represented.

Are you a PSF member, by the way? If you are a member, what would you like to see it doing? We are always trying to listen to our membership, but sometimes it's difficult to get them to say too much.


Steve Holden is a Director of the Python Software Foundation. Find out more about the PSF at its home page inside www.python.org.

Anonymous said...