I'm gonna play Devil's advocate for a bit on this and, hopefully, try not to offend anyone. I'm not a software developer or an educator, just a Moodle enthusiast and technology user.
Why does the concept of Open Source frighten you Mike?
The current state of affairs in the "for profit" software development industry has ordinary users ducking for cover every few weeks as a new weakness or error surfaces. The perception may be worse than the reality vis-a-vis reliability and/or usability
of software. My experience is that the average user is getting fed up with excuses and is looking for value. This value doesn't necessarily mean affordable, more like reliable or maintainable. Open Source is becoming less exotic to the average user and is quickly losing it's "geeky" reputation. This is in turn being replaced with a perception that Open Source, in many cases, means "built right" by people who care enough to get it right the first time. Now that the honeymoon is over and we've got to be able to live together with this new way of getting the job done we need software that actually works, period. Who even cares how it gets built or by who? Someone deliver a product that works and tell me where to send the money, apply this revenue as you see fit but keep the good software coming please. How is this any different than having to "upgrade" every now and again in order to receive the newest version that "will really make a difference in the way you work, we promise, this one's really going to work"?"Here in North America, we have no problem being offended when we buy cheap products imported from under-developed nations using child (slave) labour. Our own products can't compete on price because we want to value our own employees' efforts more than these other countries."
I don't think the average North American could really care less where the cheap stuff comes from, just send lots becasue we want everything in large quantities, period. The only reason we pay some local workers more is because we have to but that will change as more and more jobs head off-shore. Soon we'll compete head-to-head with workers in the Third World. This will include some technical as well as un-skilled workers. We are not living in our parents world. Our children will not live in ours."Open Source creates a smilar issue - competing with products being developed by under-paid workers (free). Granted, these workers are doing it of their own free will, making it more difficult to justify being offended. And, in a lot of cases, they are being paid through public funding (Universities, government workers, non-profits, etc.). It is understandable why commercial companies might see this as an unfair advantage."
No figures to back this one up but I would reckon that the total value of all the development being done in Open Source would be far less than one percent of the value paid in licences annually to very profitable software developers. Absolutely off the radar in comparison although they aren't laughing as quickly or loudly as they were only a short time ago. Put even more bluntly I think the executive secretaries of the ten biggest software developers could likely finance the entire Open Source budget out of "petty cash". That's ok though because they're developing the market for software and convincing us to buy the newest product. This manufactures a need and an Open Source developer has an opportunity to fill this need with a better product. This product can be financed with better support or a maintenance contract that will help to deliver a product that is better suited to an individual need rather than a "one size fits all" approach that a large developer has a difficult time dealing with as scale is everything when profits run the show. This creates a very loyal and satisfied client for the Open Source developer. Business sees everything as an un-fair advantage. The bottom line is all that matters, period. If they don't they perish, evolve or die, consume your competition or they'll surely consume you, that's business. If they don't do this they're actually a charity. If they don't receive a tax advantage by donating to higher learning and non-profits those will disappear or scale back anyway. The taxpayer will then decide individually what institutions remain."Its too easy to say "evolve or die". We need to take a more active role in defining what these new-economy roles will be. Aren't we the visionaries?"
You can always be the visionary but the new economic realities are going to help you clarify your vision a bit. We need stuff that works and we need it at a price we can afford. We're competing against the whole world now in the supply and demand of these better products. Everyone can produce them and, soon, many more will be in the marketplace buying them. It is really becoming a much more honest and fair world in many respects. We have been invited to live with the rest of humanity where it's always been "evolve or die".
Finally, I believe we are witnessing a new way of doing things. Each day people are waking up and developing code for the love of it. They are doing this because they like to do it. They aren't all just doing it for the big payoff. They'll do it anyway, just because they love what they do. They are some of the richest people we know. I don't know how they pay their bills. I know it's difficult at times. I think many people help them when they can. I think many of us envy them. How many of us tell our children as we send them off to school in the morning "Spend a few moments thinking about what would make you happy"? How many of us wish we could remember what it's like to spend our day doing what we love instead of what we must? Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to let someone else have some of the production so that we could spend a few generations doing what we like. Maybe during this "sabbatical" we could try and learn to live with a little less and and learn to enjoy life a little more.
Open Source works. Moodle is a perfect example of this concept. One guy has a need. This guy has ethics. He's a good citizen. He doesn't just talk about it, he does something about it. His name becomes synonymous with quality and a great attitude. His idea develops into a movement through hard work and consistently improving on his idea. A huge community grows up around his idea and this community is sustained by his dedication to the idea. Someday the community is self-sustaining because it attracts many like-minded people and achieves critical mass. The developer is able to enjoy the rewards that come with hard work and dedication to an idea. If we're lucky he is able to come up with another idea. The best part? A group of shareholders can't destroy his idea or cloud his vision.
Just thinking out loud here...