The Perils of Relying on Open-Source Software and Technology Gurus

When you base a major percentage of your business on technology that is driven by a single person, you naturally become concerned when that person becomes ill or steps down. Case in point: Constant rumors and speculation about the health of Steve Jobs, the CEO and Co-Founder of Apple Computer. If something happened to Jobs, I would not have immediate concerns about my Apple Computer and software. But I would be concerned. I would wonder about the future innovations and financial health of the company 2-5 years down the line.

In a similar vein, when Denis De Bernardy of Semiologic-Fame (affiliate link) began taking a back seat in the day-to-day support of his WordPress blogging package, I became a bit concerned. Semiologic has saved me a great deal of time in the set-up and maintenance of various blogs that I have. And with Denis in the background, it was easy to get suppport on tricky questions that naturally arise when maintaining dozens of blogs. Denis is an uber-geek. He knows what he is doing.

But like many business owners, he became overwhelmed at being the jack-of-all-trades in his business, got burned out and after several years sold the business and assumed an lesser role, removing himself from daily support functions.

As Semiologic transitions to a new phase in its development, I wonder if they will be able to keep up with the needs and support requests of people like me, who often need immediate fixes for issues as they arise. Denis has years of computer science training and development experience. Can he be effectively replaced by a paid support staff?

Even the larger open-source WordPress community has it's problems. I'm currently trying to understand why is showing up on Google with a title that reads: "Order Discount L-Tryptophan Order L-Tryptophan Online..." The Semiologic people think the issue is a WordPress issue. Obviously some part of my blog has been hacked. But finding out how to fix it can involve digging through 100's of WordPress support pages and forum posts looking for the correct information. Quite frankly, I don't have the time.

Much has been made of the fact that open-source software is somehow "free." It's not. Time is not always money, but it sure as hell can be. And in my case, spending a Monday morning tracking down and fixing a WordPress bug is costing me time that I could be using to work on my client's websites and earning income.

I am wondering if it's time to look into a new blogging platform such as Movable Type. Or perhaps Blogger has a self-hosting option now.

- Ryan

1 Comment

  1. HI Ryan, I work with the Movable Type team, and I think the issue here isn’t about open source or any other software license — it’s about support and accountability. Movable Type’s available under a variety of licenses, including open source and traditional commercial copyright licenses.

    But we’ve spent a lot of time investing in good security so your blog doesn’t get hacked and you don’t end up ranking for somebody else’s search terms. And we’ve built a solid business model so you know there will be a company backing you up. And we’ve hired professional support people to answer your questions if you *do* get stuck.

    All of those things can be done regardless of business model — someone just has to decide they’re important. We’d be glad to have you try Movable Type, but regardless we hope that more people come to the realization that you have, that our technology choices have to made in a context that thinks about what really matters long-term.

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