I’m not normally a fan of blog posts that do little more than talk about information available elsewhere. But I’m going to make an exception, because what TDWI has been able to do of late on LinkedIn has generated a good deal of conversation, information sharing and intriguing conclusions. Kudos to Wayne Eckerson for his efforts at getting this going as well as evangelizing it.
The LinkedIn Groups idea is a powerful one – provide a connection between professional networks and the information their participants care about. If you’re on LinkedIn (and I recommend it – if you don’t know what it is, I consider it the premier site for professional contact management) you can find the TDWI group here. You’ll find quite a collection of data and BI professionals there – and here’s a key point: TDWI membership is not necessary.
Why does this matter? Because in many situations where there is an organization with a vested interest (and a commercial motive) in serving its members, information doesn’t flow. Consider the big technology research firms – they’re like expensive country clubs: big membership fees and then a hefty charge to play every time you want a game. Some research firms are adopting a more open model with their IP, but so far, they are in the minority, and quite small compared to the big country club types.
Anyone can suggest a discussion topic on LinkedIn Groups, and anyone can play free – LinkedIn membership itself is free, although there are premium versions available. As a result, lively discussions occur, which while not scientifically sampled or statistically validated, allow points of view and experiences to be shared and debated.
And then there’s Wayne. His role includes publishing summaries, such as one he published recently which included this discussion:
“Open source BI” – has anyone used them yet? What do you think of these tools? Submitted by Marco Ribeiro, senior data architect, 67 comments.
Wayne’s Summary: The discussion revolves around whether open source has more intrinsic value than its low cost. The consensus is that open source offers many additional benefits: chief among them 1) an engaged user community that is willing to share ideas 2) the ability to customize the software to meet your specific needs 3) automatic (and free) product upgrades 4) the ability to vote on enhancement requests 5) a community of developers contributing to a code base, which accelerates delivery of new functionality 6) good documentation that you can read before purchasing (premium versions). I like this quote by one person: “I believe that open source is about open people.”
I find this particular discussion to be of great interest because of the conclusions. It’s hardly surprising that participants in a collaborative community tend to value collaboration and community in their product providers. Nor that open source tends to offer just those attributes. What I found particularly engaging was that clearly many customers are speaking from experience when they say they have found vendors who provide those very things, and that they are “intrinsic values” beyond the low cost that open source software (OSS) gets in the door with.
Wayne’s work has convinced me to raise this community in my hierarchy of things to pay attention to. I’d urge anyone interested in these topics to do the same.