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Does Open Source Create Jobs?
And How About Ajax and Web 2.0, Now That We're On the Subject?

As West Coast Bureau Chief of SYS-CON Media, I have the privilege of observing, and reporting on, what remains the most dynamic technology development region in the world, Silicon Valley. And frequent visitors to the SYS-CON family of websites will be familiar with my occasional rants about how things just aren’t what they used to be around here, even as we approach the sixth anniversary of the initial dot-com bubbleburst.

My lament runs something like this: the Nasdaq continues to be mired somewhere around the 2000 level, traffic (aka my “favorite metric,” according to our publisher director Jeremy Geelan) is still less abominably bad than in the glory days, and acres upon acres of low-slung office buildings continue to sit empty.

The singular fact emerging from all this is that employment has simply not approached glory-day levels. Even as the Nasdaq has edged up 15% in recent months, it languishes far, far from its late 90s peak. And the most wildly successful Silicon Valley company in recent years, Google, has shown signs of stock-price stress in the wake of a candid assessment by the company’s CFO about its prospects for future growth.

OK, enough replaying of the familiar whine. My purpose today is to examine the question about whether the hottest topics in software development right now—Open Source, Ajax, and Web 2.0—offer any relief.

Open Source is as much a political movement as a technical one, and has a very large and tremendously passionate following around the world. Ajax, the old wine in a new bottle, has tapped into the open-source sensibility to launch a new wave of application development suited for the current principle that websites should be faster, more functional, and highly flexible. And Web 2.0, a term that noted Silicon Valley venture capitalist was just quoted as saying makes him “puke,” has risen into the zeitgeist so quickly as to give everyone a bit of queasiness as they try to define it, and more important, value it properly.

About Roger Strukhoff
Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1

I don't completely agree with the idea that "Open Source" is becoming an impediment to job growth. I believe it is becoming an impediment to job growth for large corporations though. And I don't see a problem with this. The United States especially has become far too dependent on large corporations while at the same time losing out on imaginative new technologies that only smaller companies can provide. In addition, the large U.S. corporations from a sociological standpoint have done nothing but wreak havoc on the social fabric of this nation. So losing a few of them in the long term wouldn't be such a bad thing. In this respect maybe less is more.

"Open Source" is clearly changing the way Information Technology is structured but in many respects it is in a good way as it is encouraging the growth of small business over the large while at the same developing better service oriented philosophies along with these companies. Further, it is driving the costs of technology down to far more reasonable levels. Those companies that still want to make money based on software development, such as my own, instead of services will have to follow suit since most "Open Source" quality products appear to be at the high-end range for large requirements leaving profits to be made on smaller application types where I believe plenty of room still exists to do so.

As to the quality of such software; please, the quality has already been shown to exist at the same level as commercial quality software. It doesn't matter how a software tool is created as long as the overriding concern is the quality of the final product. Such quality can be determined either by the love for development or the management of that development. There is no rule that states that in order for a product to be good it had to be derived from a profit-making enterprise. That assertion is simply rediculous.

When it comes to "Open Source" being used for such processes as those found in aircraft, the FAA, and other such situations, that kind of discussion is simply nonsense. Embedded systems such as these require very stringent production guidelines which given the "Open Source" methodologies would hardly ever allow the movement to gain contracts for such projects. And nor do I believe is there much interest in that respect.

Nonetheless, "Open Source" is providing many advantages and opportunities for those that want to reduce software costs, dependency on large trans-national corporations, as well as growth opportunities for those that simply want to think "small"...

There are no inherent differences regarding initial quality or security between Proprietary or Open Source products. Practical differences may arise in the details: wide participation in the design, resources available, commercial pressures, and other factors modulate the quality of initial releases.

For subsequent releases other factors come to play, and again not all of them favor one model of software development over the other, but the wide availability of the source code makes it easy to imagine that evolution of Open Source products is faster and socially cheaper.

Perhaps your friend should be afraid of flying, being treated with, or being defended by software products whose quality he can not asess in some of its most important elements: the underlying functional model, the modularity of the design, the coding standards, the thoroughness of the testing, etc.

I am not speaking from knowledge about the software industry, but isn't your analyst friend saying, in effect, that productivity - accomplishing the same or more with fewer workers - is a bad thing? Need I say more?

I think Open Source / Free Software is smart way to get lots of users to try something they have not used before. The fact that some companies are finding a way to make money with it proves that it is possible to make a real business out of it. Think of what Microsoft spends on just the promotional aspects of marketing. The number 1 company in the industry can't afford to rest on its laurels. Somebody small with a really good idea can have it on thousands of computers around the world very quickly and at very low cost. Open Source / Free Software is a great equalizer that I think will lead to better products in the long run.

Does this mean there will be lots more code to write and more coders to write it? Maybe. Or maybe -- like US farmers -- a very few will be able to create enough for the very many. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The rest of us have found plenty to do now that we don't have to stay down on the farm.

If AJAX makes web applications act more like native applications, from a user's point of view that is probably a good thing. Does that mean more coders will be needed, maybe not. Remember the farmining analogy.

Web 2.0? I don't really get that. Who has time for all this cyber community stuff? I would rather spend time in the real world. Eventually the kids will grow up and have less free time for that sort of thing. Senior citizens will have to pick up the slack. My parents till aren't online yet.

Open source may or may not be creating new jobs, but it has helped save my job. We have decreased costs by moving to open source, which frees up money to help keep employees. And in the end isn't that "creating" jobs. One less layoff = one job.

While I feel your pain, you should probably stick to software, and stay out of the political/economics arenas.

First, you're using "The Bubble" as the standard of comparison as to what was "normal"; it wasn't! It was a B-U-B-B-L-E. You had ridiculous amounts of venture capital being thrown into all things Internet, which fueled the demand for jobs. This, in turn let to practically every counter person at Blockbuster deciding they could be a webmaster, and putting themselves into the IT ranks. This is most decidedly NOT normal!

You continue your incorrect assumptions:

You say: "...that job creation is the keystone of capitalism..."

WRONG WRONG WRONG! WRONG! Has "The Bubble" taught you nothing? "capitalism" is about creating WEALTH for YOURSELF, not about creating jobs. Capitalism also has nothing to do with democracy. Look at China, which is filled with capitalists who exist in a Communist/totalitarian regime!

Watch the Race to the Bottom, job-wise and economy -wise. It's happening right in front of you!

:-)

Ultimately it will create jobs, but like any (new) technology, in order for it to really work, things need to break first.

Was the old way of doing things, i.e. having 10 developers in a limited environment work on developing an application (using round number here) versus, 10 developers that use the open source community to verify and fix, and add to their code (giving a potetnial developer community in the 100's if not 1000's) better? I don't believe so. My feeling is collaboration is always better, and the bigger the circle of knowledge the better for everyone.

Many old school/proprietary types want to believe that a transparent business model will not work; is what is creating much of the backlash. The landscape is changing, for better or worse, and eventually it will transform the way coding works.

For now though we must suffer through the naysayers and watch with amusement. Oh yeah, it does create jobs. I place open source people, and I collaborate with CLUE in Canada, to help find jobs for Open Source people with great companies.

My purpose today is to examine the question about whether the hottest topics in software development right now?Open Source, Ajax, and Web 2.0?offer any relief. My attention was drawn to recent coverage of three classic Web 2.0 companies, flickr, myspace, and youtube.


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