When you are dealing a lot with free-lance developers, it happens a lot that you have to go into a discussion about closed- and open source. Read many IT blogs and mostly the responses, where there sometimes is a fanatical open-source-is-good and closed-source-is-evil kind of mentality.
I do understand the arguments for open-source, I am just not completely convinced by them. Even with the GNU licensing system, I would still have my doubts that open-source has any more positives speaking for it than closed-source. Being besides an IT-er, I am also a photographer and designer. And when you are in the creative production process, where you get paid for your ‘sparks’, that it is your living, you also learn to see that you don’twant other people to ‘enhance’ your product. What would Rembrandt say when someone comes in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam right now to repaint some parts of the Nightwatch because ‘he can make it better’. Sometimes it is simply an insult.
And true, sometimes some source code could be done a lot better, made a lot more secure. Hey, I am one of those people. I can create technical concepts really fast, and even reliable, but I prefer to do that in ASP. No, not .Net, just legacy. I have a programmer working for me that, after the concept is proven is taking that code, and he is reprogramming it so that it is rock-solid. He makes my code a lot better. And that is a good thing. I know my code, especially in prototyping, is not always the best. But I do not always want to hear from others that my work can be done better, especially not that there is any guarantee that it will be actually an improvement.
Also, there is much more to product development or production development than code. It is also design, user experience, the entertainment value. I have to praise Apple for this, where they actually lock their product production processes tightly. And Apple’s technical layer is by far not always top notch, but they make up for it in user experience and look and feel. My iPod keeps crashing that I have to reboot it so many times, but still, I like it better than my other MP3’s that I had.
I do believe that open-source, and I am pointing at true-open source, is good for code evolution. Making the code itself better and better. But not always for a whole product. The ‘good’ of a product is not always under the engine. A Jaguar is a good car, with a very good driving experience, still, technically it is one of the cars with a lot of issues in durability. If you have a $300k Ferrari you might have a problem with speed-bumps. Nothing is perfect, and nor should it be. If there would be a perfect product, there would be no need for a new version of something.
Also, in my opinion closed source is commercially more attractive for investors. And for the majority of companies, developers, creatives productions rely on money coming in, to get food on the table. Remember, not every developer is filthy rich, not every IT company is on NASDAQ. A lot of them are struggling. You would say that open-source might be a solution, but often it is closed-source that offers solutions here. I work solely on Windows machines, and otherwise would do so on Macs (even though Apple is not my favorite company as many know by now), have a license for each and every version. Also with Adobe Creative Suites. Yes, they cost more money than running a computer with Linux and Gimp, but since my production process is on the line here, if Windows fails, or Photoshop, I have guaranteed support, someone can help me out. That alone is worth a lot of money. Because every hour that I lose on work, is one hour I do not get paid.
And not only that. I think closed-source also can make a lot of your work financially interesting for sale. As long as you know how to build it. Because a lot of times, if you are short on a part of a production, and you don’t know how to get it, buying a license from an open-source product may absolutely be a solution and a live-saver. But also, not knowing how it works sometimes is a bliss.
I remember that one of the Quotes in the Quote section of UItima 8: Pagan says : “By working at Origin Systems I thought I would learn how to program structurally. Obviously, I was wrong [programmer while reviewing the Strike Commander source code].” Strike Commander was in that time one of the most excellent games around. So, it was probably not wonderful code. It worked. And the game was wonderful. And for that time with a lot less bugs than most games around. That is all I need to know. If that game had to go through the open-source review process it might never have gone to market.
So, I am on the brink here. Favoring closed-source, but acknowledging that it would most probably not work correctly if open-source were not around.