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September 01, 2005

Open Dispute

1 September 2005 In a previous life I ran a software distribution company. Open Source software was not something that enthused me then, as it was incompatible with our business model. Now that I'm no longer tied to any particular business model, I have looked at open source software again. In particular, I can see a promising future for open source Content Management Systems. Such systems can provide solid frameworks for low budget web sites and offer clear benefits for Web designers and their customers.

When deciding on a system for a few projects recently, I decided to use the Mambo Open Source CMS for three reasons:

I've been happy with the system, it performed well. My only substantive criticism of it would be the quality of documentation, a common failing of open source software. Mambo's user community is a powerhouse of energy and interestingly a hotbed of small entrepreneurs building extensions, templates and services around Mambo.

I had the pleasure to meet up with Peter Lamont on a number of occasions over the past six months. He originally released Mambo to open source and admits he had no real idea what the result of that might be. After releasing Mambo "to the wild" some years ago, he went on to develop a commercial version, which was only modestly successful (like most commercial CMS's).In my conversations with him, I found him struggling with how to best re-engage with the open source version of his progeny.

Dramatically, over the past month the Mambo community has self-destructed after Peter created the Mambo Foundation, which was viewed suspiciously by users and developers. The whole sorry saga is self-documented here. For a brief version, the Ars Technica article is a good read.

The well known paranoia of those who provide their services for free, coupled with Peter's somewhat hamfisted approach proved a lethal combination. The moral to this story? Don't open source your code unless you are really prepared to let go of any commercial interest in it.

Posted by Marius at September 1, 2005 12:30 PM

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Although I wasn't willing to wade through 560+ forum posts, I did read the first 20 and the last dozen or so as well as the Ars Technica article. What I find surprising is not that the Mambo community reacted with suspicion and hostility but rather that Peter Lamont could have imagined his "Mambo Foundation" would attract the slightest degree of support. Surely anyone with even a flimsy acquaintance with either open source politics or human nature could have predicted their response?

Posted by: Jonathon Delacour at September 1, 2005 10:52 PM

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