Open Source: Grey and Green

How Grey Is Your Valley: Making Money From Open Source is the title of a post by Duncan at TechCrunch. Duncan focuses on recent remarks by Matt Mullenweg, and juxtaposes them certain actions of Matt and of Automattic.

The above links are part of the ongoing debate about making money from free/open source software. It does seem to me that Duncan’s post is more personal than it needs to be. Having said that, I recommend that anyone interested in the debate read the post and the ensuing comments.

I’ll comment on two issues. The first concerns Automattic’s spam-fighting service. Duncan writes that:

Akismet is a service that relies on the failure of the WordPress code to be able to natively deal with comment spam. The service is free for personal use and a paid service for everyone else. As the co-founder and essentially the head of the WordPress open source movement, Mullenweg leads the initiatives by WordPress to combat comment spam. On the other hand as the head of Automattic he runs a company that profits from those very failings.

This doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers Duncan. First, since the WordPress core is under the GPL, anyone wishing to improve its spam-fighting code is free to do so. Second, since WordPress is extensible, anyone wishing to write a spam-fighting plugin is free to do so; there are many such plugins available.

The second issue is more literary. In the post title, Duncan referred to How Green Was My Valley, which was first a British novel and later a Hollywood movie.

I love the colour imagery: in making green from free/open source software, we encounter grey areas. O Best Beloved, I begin to think that the most fitting geographical image is the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees.

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