Open Insights 21 – Open Season, Open Sesame?

OPEN INSIGHTS Newsletter
Issue 21 – Open Season, Open Sesame?
July 1, 2006

by Sean Hull
<shull@iheavy.com>
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.


In This Issue:
1. Feature: Open Season, Open Sesame?
2. Audio Interviews
3. Current Reading
4. Lightweight Humor
5. Past Issues
6. Technical Articles
7. About Heavyweight Internet Group


1. Feature: Open Season, Open Sesame?

So what’s with the term “open” anyway? Wiktionary.org has various definitions from accessible, and not closed, like a gate, to open as in hours of operation, ready to conduct business. But there are two additional meanings they list, receptive, and public. It’s these two latter meanings which will come into play a lot for us.

Sometimes when I hear the word Open it conjures images of geopolitics, perhaps Perestroika Gorbachev’s late 80′s reform movement. You might hear of open inspections, or Democratic openness, all pointing to transparency or at least more transparency than previously known. We think of it as being part of a free society. We might defer to Anderson360′s dictate, “keeping them honest”. Howard Bloom, a visiting scholar at NYU and author of “The Global Brain” and “The Lucifer Principle” theorizes that in good times, societies aspire to Athenian Democracy, while in bad times they tend towards Spartan Dictatorships. These are in essence open and closed societies.

Bloggers all have an inherent affinity towards openness. Maybe it’s journalists in general, but bloggers in particular are spending their days writing, and spreading knowledge and information. I enjoy Seth Godin’s blog on marketing, because it’s chock full of new ideas and insights. Or take Keith Ferrazzi who speaks about networking, and building relationships. He says relationships are not a
fixed resource, that can somehow run out. It’s not a zero-sum game, but about sharing connections, and benefiting from the intangibles that are gained from that open network of relationships. An interesting thing, many of these bloggers are authors, and some compile postings and material from their blog over the years into a book which people buy, despite being able to get much of the informatio
n on the blog itself. And further, some folks are taking it to the next level while simultaneously publishing a free online copy of a book they’re selling on Amazon, for instance. Check out http://creativecommons.org for details.

In computing we speak of open standards, that is protocols, and agreements to create a fair playing field upon which many vendors can compete. All free market economists agree that competition encourages innovation, as each business strives to win the most marketshare. Another way to win marketshare, is to build proprietary systems & protocols, tying consumers and businesses to a specific solution, by controling intellectual property relating to the technology. In the days where railroads where the kings of transportation, companies fought vigorously over gauges, which defined the width of the tracks over which the trains rode. Fighting over the gauges, slowed the expansion of businesses, and that pressure caused the industry to standardize on 143cm width. We can see similar types of things happening in the computing industry with CD-ROMs, DVDs, and the battle
over the newer formats coming out now.

How open-source software plays into this mix is an interesting one. By it’s nature of course source-code is always available, and this level of transparency has brought more confidence in security circles, relating to open-source software. Bugs are clear and evident, and there’s no waiting for the vendor to either decide to fix it, or get around to it. Here we fall squaring in the cross-hairs of the full disclosure debate.

And for those free-market capitalists among us, an open market is a level playing field, a la Thomas Friedman’s “The World Is Flat”. He might have also said “The World is Open”. Indeed.

The truth is competition is the tougher road. And though it leads to a better result for the consumer, many businesses flounder, and fail to compete to create the best product, whether through engineering mistakes, marketing ones, or lack of the right business acumen. It’s much easier to go the road of the monopoly, and companies will tend towards that direction if they can, growing larger, but less nimble and adaptable.

The image of the stodgy monopoly would probably be the phone company. Telephones have not experienced real innovation in 50 to 60 years, mainly because the phone company had a monopoly on the pipes, and what protocol (think railroad gauge) they understood. Now with the advent of telephony over the internet, Voice Over IP has turned that industry upside down. Between the breadth of new offerings from companies like Vonage, Skype, and Broadvoice and the incredibly fierce competition among celular providers, consumers can only win. Incredibly, with skype I can call worldwide to other skype users for FREE, and to landlines in most countries for around two cents per minute.

In the computing world of course, the big monopoly for some time has been Microsoft. Despite the failure of the justice department to affect that, the internet is starting to chip away at that business. As more applications move onto the internet with so-called Web-2.0, the Operating System, and the desktop become less and less relevant, and for a company like Microsoft, harder to control and corner.

In a way one might argue that no monopoly, no closed system, no censorship, no dam in the system is sacred on the internet, where John Gilmore famously declared “The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” By analogy, things inevitably become open, whether we like it or not.

2. Audio Interviews

We have a great audio interview or podcast that you’re sure to enjoy. We talk with Paul Vallee, Founder and President of Pythian Group, about their use of Open-source technologies in the enterprise, and why they’ve taken the reigns to maintain a Perl to Oracle library called DBD::Oracle. Click here for more

Do you use Open-source technologies in your enterprise? Would you like to talk
about your experiences, and business successes? We’d like to hear from you. Email me at shull@iheavy.com

3. Current Reading

A Whole New Mind – Daniel Pink (link to his blog)
Daniel Pink is the bestselling author of Free Agent Nation, so I thought I’d give his book on right-brain thinking a try. Although his insights are apt, they’re mostly rehashed for greater luminaries, and I’m not a fan of his writing style. The real heavyweights in this space are Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology
of Persuasion
“, and Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence : Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” both of which I heartily endorse.

The Art of Innovation – Tom Kelley
As far as innovative thinking goes, the IDEO guys have done it all. And Kelley’s book is one part story, one part story, one part how-to. Also check out this Commonwealth Club Interview with Tom Kelley

Master Pieces: The Curator’s Game – Thomas Hoving
In this curious and interesting book, Hoving presents us with clips, scraps, and little snippets of larger works of art, classical pieces we might all be familiar with, and challenges us to identify the original. Cataloged and organized as a puzzle on every page, with the second half of the book being a good introduction to art history guide for each of the referenced paintings. This book is fun to flip through, or to provide your coffeetable with some life.

4. Lightweight Humor

A little free and open source software in the dentists office from User Friendly.


5. Past Issues

Issue 20: Better Web Better Business
Issue 19: ManagingFixed Fees
Issue 18: The Cost of Consulting
Issue 17: SecretsOf The Interview
Archive: Past Issues

6. Technical Articles

Oracle10g Laptop Rac How-to: click here
Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here
Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here
MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

7. About Heavyweight Internet Group

In a nutshell, Oracle. Everything related to and surrounding the database technology we specialize in, but specifically setup, admin and tuning of Oracle technology. I have 10 years experience with Oracle, wrote a book on the technology, and write and lecture frequently. I’m founder and senior consultant of the company. In capacities where your company might hire Deloitte, AIG, or Oracle Consulting we can bring the same level of service and experience, at about half the price. Simple equation.

Visit us on the web at www.iheavy.com.