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Dammit – should I give up on open source in government (mikadosoftware.com)
42 points by lifeisstillgood 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

The response to that is surely very simple.

"Since government has absolutely no faith in community development we have loaded the contract with sufficient margin to employ lots of people who will specifically maintain the code used in the project.

Which is precisely what any closed source developer has to do.

But by supporting this bid the government will make government maintained code available for free to any other enterprise that wants to use it and gain the benefit of any development they may choose to do to that code.

This eliminates duplication across the economy and makes the economy more efficient overall.

PS. I hope you none of you are using Android phones"

Exactly this, though word it more nicely and in such a way that the benefits obviously accrue to them, rather than the more abstract "economy". They want to treat it exactly the same as a commercial offering, so you should too. Just note that the licence you endeavour to develop the software under lends them additional flexibility to, for example, hire other support workers outside of your contract.

GitHub is full of abandoned open source projects. It's a valid concern.

I'm not the sort of person who bids for government contracts, but to speculate, perhaps answering this question would mean deciding on which Linux distro to use and figuring out which maintenance contract they should buy. If the other software they'll be using is supported as part of the Linux distro, maybe that's enough?

Government work does not attract bright, creative people. It attracts people who want security, and this tends to result in bureaucracy, a lot of process and rules, and very little thinking or risk taking. Anything that doesn't fit "we've always done it this way" will be viewed with fear.

Did you have to go to a special shop to buy a brush that broad? There are plenty of bright, creative people who work in government

My perspective from working as a DoD and FedGov contractor is that while the idea of working for the government appeals to very many talented people, the actual experience of working for the government will ultimately push them to the private sector.

There are many reasons, but the simplest is that the government just doesn't pay terribly well and tends to promote based on seniority rather than ability.

On the other hand, government employment can be very attractive for two reasons.

1. Subject area. If you want to work on pure science or on making the world a better place, then a career in a government research lab would be far more compatible with your dreams than work in the private sector would be.

2. Secure employment + good medical benefits. If you are supporting a family and have limited savings, then a lower-paying government job that won't terminate you unless you personally do something egregious becomes more attractive than a higher-paying private sector job that might terminate you tomorrow for reasons outside your knowledge or control. Doubly so if you know you (or your dependent) have an expensive medical issue that might affect you in a few years - knowledge that you will have a paycheck and you will have medical coverage can feel far more secure than hoping that you won't be between private sector jobs and Congress won't gut Obamacare.

Sadly I have seen both sides of govt contracting, open stacks and proprietary, and I feel like the passionate such as yourself lose regardless. I hope you keep up the good fight. O'Reilly has a whole OSS in gov conf in DC and I hope your ilk make even a little headway.

My two cents.

I wonder if a portion is simply not a figurative allergy.

"Government" is a concept that stands or falls by control, regulation and ownership, or lack thereoff.

All characteristics that naturally go the opposite direction compared to the inherit nature off open source or it's ideal envisionment.

More realistically, one can't deny the power money (profit) has to motivate and maintain a service. In practise this tends to almost naturally lead to a company wanting to hold rights to their products "secrets" and/or try to sell for as much as they can get away with.

Imagine your job is to implement a new software-based process. Something goes wrong. The server is down. Who do you call?

This is why open source is treated like a leper: there is no one to call or the support is so disparate that it's hopeless.

Solve the problems that lead them to making those decisions.

Now imagine that the company you bought the software from no longer exists. You're correct about one of the issues with FLOSS adoption, but you're framing it wrong: any software can have support issues. The biggest advantage of FLOSS that the government has written and shared is that they can get competitive bids for maintenance contracts, rather than being stuck with one vendor.

"They can get competitive bids instead of be stuck with a single vendor" can be translated as "they have to go through a complicated months long process to find a contractor instead of dial a 1-800 number and get the patch in two weeks."

They already had to go through the months-long process to get that 1-800 number in the first place (unless of course they "just choose IBM"). FLOSS doesn't short-ciruit that, it just shifts it to a different phase of procurement.

Selling the service to create open source software to solve a problem government has, then selling long term support and extensibility for it, is a recipe that has worked for at least one multi-billion dollar company.

That's the recipe I would follow.

Which I that company - sounds like a plan

Red Hat

Open source software should come with a support contract, and the government can easily change contractors, which is not the case with the proprietary software.

Agreed - but I am now focusing on trying to find a few authorities who want a given solution created, then have them invest the seed money, and try to sell dual "create and support" licenses to others.

It's possible to get open-source software with support contracts. Red Hat and Canonical are two companies that offer this. However, there does seem to be a gap in the market for a company that offers similar support contracts for open-source software running on Windows and OS X.

Completely agree. This is the point. We live in software, everyone else doesn't. "Just please make my job easy, I don't want to know about Github"

Get the OSS for free and use the money saved to pay a support developer?

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