How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Open Source Zealots
Actually, I didn't learn that at all. I spent the better part of the week worrying about them, so suave and debonair, with their convincing tales of heightened productivity using OpenOffice.org and Ubuntu, and their laser cannons, that's right, they're armed, and they're also aliens from the planet Firefox. Fear them!
This is what passes for humour chez Jeff after a long week of trying to brainstorm, encourage, document, and comment. OK, they're not laser-toting aliens, but as a developer and an end user in a predominantly Microsoft environment for a pretty long time, I often felt painted as the one to be feared.
You know what?
Microsoft makes some damn good products that are reasonably priced for the business value they deliver.
That felt better than I thought it would.
I'm way out of my comfort zone playing the evangelist, but some of the comments that I've read on the GC IT Innovation Campaign site this week have gotten my back up. I'm not normally an MS zealot, but I could play one on TV for a few minutes, right?
You want open standards? Try ECMA-376 and ISO/IEC 29500:2008 on for size.
You want the source code? Why on earth? You're a government programmer, for crying out loud. If you have the time to patch security holes yourself, you clearly have too much time on your hands and you're not spending enough of it delivering value to the public you're supposed to serve.
Calc is just as good as Excel? You're talking about the #1 business intelligence tool in the world here. Can you handle a pivot table drilling into an OLAP cube? Maybe. How about building a library of pivot tables, charts, and key performance indicators that a user can drag-and-drop on a web page to build their own custom dashboard? Man, I love Excel Services!
Not to mention that with the guidance of our dev shop, smart people with no traditional systems development experience are building apps with Office and SharePoint, so we can say "yes" to our business owners more than we ever used to doing completely custom development. Now let's talk about productivity!
OK, that was a little exhausting. But kinda fun. That is so not my way, but when faced with the outright negativity of so many people, in what was supposed to be (and was, for the most part) a constructive effort to do a better job as IM and IT practitioners in the public service, I think it was an understandable reaction.
But we pay so much for Microsoft licenses! And Ubuntu is free!
Don't give me that. Talk to me about the total cost of ownership. Talk to me about training. Talk to me about support contracts. Talk to me about manageability. Talk to me about user productivity, translated from hours into dollars. (Time is money, I hear.)
Look, I love that there are free, open source options out there. I've used a lot of them myself, going back to installing Debian on my 386 in 1997, from like a dozen 1.44 MB floppies, to run gcc for school. But they're not for every problem, or for every user. Let "I Am Not My User" be your mantra.
You want free? So do I. I want the freedom to decide for myself, because I know my business better than you do. That freedom hasn't always been extended to people who have wanted to leverage open source offerings in their work, and that's unfortunate, but the other extreme is just as bad.
I know that this issue is more complex and nuanced than this, but complexity and nuance were in short supply in way too many comments on the campaign site. It's been a long week, I'm tired, and I've got to work overtime this weekend. Call this my emotional knee-jerk reaction. But my mind is open to a reasonable debate. I love that I got a thoughtful comment out of nowhere on my first post on the issue.
That is all. *yawn* Good night.