Red Hat’s Open Source School of Thought

What is Red Hat up to with its launch this week of the opensource.com Web page?

This replaces the “Truth Happens” page, which ran articles and videos onopen source, intellectual property, transparency and other issues.

“Opensource.com is now the place to go to find out about how opensource principles are re-shaping business, law, art and, of course,technology,” wrote Colin Dodd on the “Truth Happens” page to announceits closing. “We had a great run over here, but the subject outgrewthis forum.”

So what is opensource.com? It’s positioned as a gathering place, butthe description of open source from the site’s “about” page sounds like itstretches far beyond the concept of freely exchanging zeros and ones.”The open source way is more than a development model; it defines thecharacteristics of a culture,” it says. “The open source way is aboutpossibility. The open source way multiplies.”

There are several sections on the page, including “Life,” “Education,” “Business” and “Law.” All the articles on thefirst page were written by Red Hat staffers, with the exception of theone written by Chris Grams, who used to work at Red Hat and is now apartner in the agency that developed the “Truth Happens” campaign.

Red Hat’s View of Opensource.com

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst positions opensource.com as one of the ways inwhich Red Hat gives back to the open source community. “Our desire isto create a connection point for conversations about the broaderimpact that open source can have — and is having — even beyond thesoftware world,” he wrote in his blog introducing opensource.com. Participation is open to all.

“We know there are opportunities to apply the open source way broadlyin business, in government, in education, in the law, and throughoutour lives,” Whitehurst wrote.

Red Hat will grow the site’s functionality and content.

Bringing Back the Pizzazz?

Exactly what Red Hat is trying to achieve remains unclear, despiteWhitehurst’s explanation.

Could opensource.com be Red Hat’s attempt at reviving excitement inthe open source movement?

“The first generation of Linux and open source folks are probablyheaded into their 40s and 50s, and I wonder if this is a way for Redhat to get people energized and talking about open source the way theyused to in the 80s,” Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, toldLinuxInsider.

“Generally, when an organization begins talking about something in ahyperbolic way, it makes me wonder if it’s doing that because nobodyelse is,” King pointed out.

The Story Behind Red Hat’s Story?

There are other possible reasons why Red Hat launched opensource.com.Perhaps the site was put up in an attempt to clarify the differencebetween open source and collaboration, said King. “About three years ago, playerswho’d been in the Linux community for years began distancingthemselves from open source,” King said. “They were being very carefulin differentiating what was happening in the Linux world from thebroader open source world.”

Those Linux players seemed to want to make it clear that Linux is aniteration of open source, King explained. Shortly after that, vendorsbegan talking about collaboration, he said.

So what’s the difference between the two? “Collaboration tends to beprofessionally focused by, for example, having an organization useLotus Notes to encourage collaboration between its staff or withanother company,” King said. “Open source tends to be more focused oncontributions from people doing what they do for love.”

It all boils down to love versus money, it seems.

Or perhaps it could be that Red Hat is digging in and securing itsdefenses before Oracle thrashes the Linux world following thecompletion of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems this week. RedHat could be threatened by Oracle’s offering its own version of RedHat Linux.

“I love Linux,” Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said at a briefing Wednesdayon Oracle’s plans in the wake of the deal’s completion. “We do offerRed Hat, but we make it interesting,”

Or could it be that Red Hat feels threatened by Oracle’s approach toopen source, which revolves around standards-based products thatinteroperate within the Oracle world? “We’ve always focused on adesign philosophy of openness around standards, interoperability andacross architectures,” said Thomas Kurian, Oracle’s executive vicepresident of product development and software strategy, at thebriefing.

Bah, Humbug!

Open source is all rather loosey-goosey to Jim McGregor, chief technologystrategist at In-Stat. “True open source is a real headache,” he toldLinuxInsider. “It has resulted in little market momentum and morefragmentation than anything else.”

Open source needs a third party to control the standards, McGregorcontended. “That someone should preferably be an independent thirdparty such as an academic institution,” he said.

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