Subject: Data on open source business impact
From: "Tim O'Reilly" <tim@oreilly.com>
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 16:50:33 -0700



Craig Brozefsky wrote:
> 
> "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp> writes:
> > Maybe the fact that we have no data doesn't bother you.  It bothers
> > _me_.  But I don't have funds to go collecting what data is easily
> > available. 
> 
> Doesn't bother me at all actually.  We'll never have the data we need
> to act, and if we always gotta go collecting it to act, then we'll
> never do much at all.

Well, I'm a big fan of data, and I do think that there is a huge
opportunity for us in the open source/free software community to collect
useful data that the big market research firms will never think of. 
(Some of you may have heard me talk about the impact of the netcraft
survey on business perception of the importance of Apache, for
instance.  This would have been completely overlooked by traditional
market researchers.  This is why we need to keep remembering that the
"hacker community" of friends and potential allies is considerably
larger than people who share any particular slice of this migration.)

But that being said, I have to agree with Craig.  His comments reminded
me of those of Clayton Christiansen, the Harvard business school guru
whose recent book The Innovator's Dilemma seems to be in more Amazon
purchase circles than any other business book.  Christiansen points out
that what he calls disruptive technologies often unseat existing players
precisely because there isn't enough data for them to base their
business forecasts on, so they sit on the sidelines waiting for the
market to get big enough to notice.  Meanwhile, small companies (and in
the case of open source/free software, individuals and coalitions)
tackle these new markets, get first mover advantage, and eventually grow
large. 

So lack of data is not an argument for holding back.  It's an argument,
though, for being in "learning mode" rather than pretending we already
have all the answers.



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Tim O'Reilly @ O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
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