This morning I got this tweet:

@fbrnc Would you be able to help me with an argument FOR going open source with magento modules?

-- Luke Fowell (@lukefowell) December 4, 2013

I think this is a very interesting question and as I’m currently in blog-post-writing-mode anyways I’d like to publish this following post to share an analogy and to invite you to continue the discussion in the comments below. (This isn’t the kind of thing you can discuss in 140 characters…)

Ok, so let’s say you and your family are invited to a friend’s house for a big thanksgiving dinner with the host, his family and some other friends. You know, the kind of thanksgiving dinner with the big turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pies,…

The host prepared a big turkey and of course you can have some for free. The host also has a second, very special turkey. He claims this turkey allows you to eat even more without feeling stuffed and without getting fat (at least this is what he tells you, others say it’s basically the same turkey with some extra spices). Plus it will be served on a nicer plate directly to your place. The host calls it the “enterprise turkey” and is charging a couple of dollars if you want that one instead. (Ok, I have to admit this part of the analogy is a little wonky…) In the end the host is still a nice guy. And to be honest charging for the enterprise turkey allows him to invite many more friends for the regular turkey.

Usually you can’t see how the turkey is prepared but in some rare occasions you’ll actually get to see the cook, find out what he’s done and if you’re really, really lucky the cook might answer some of your questions or even listen to you if you have some smart advice on how to make that turkey even more delicious.

Ok, enough said about the turkey. There’s so much more to a good thanksgiving dinner and being invited to that feast you offered to bring something to share with the group. That might be some yummy pecan pie, a salad, sweet potatoes, maybe some stuffing (btw, I don’t get it why that stuff is called “stuffing” even if it never even touched the turkey…). Being thankful to be invited to the party you’re happy to contribute to the dinner, right? In the end you’re eating the turkey, so why not make sure this feast will have some more yummy stuff. Also, it feels great to contribute and that’s when guests meeting each other for the first time at host’s house become friends.

So you, the host and your friends are all sitting together now and you’re discussing the turkey and the rest of the food that you and the other friends brought. People will tell each other that everything is super yummy. Some might even mention that the turkey is a little dry or the graving could be less salty. In the end whether it’s positive or negative feedback, you’re happy people commenting about your food, people listening to your comments and friends writing down the recipe for your awesome pumpkin pie. Directly after the food itself these conversations (including all kinds of jokes and even listening to that weird guy who’s bragging all night about the enormous chicken dinner he had prepared the other night from scratch) are pretty much the best part of that dinner and the reason why you came in the first place.

Of course there also might be some “friends” that will grab your potatoes and bring them to another party the next day pretending the potatoes are theirs. Some might even call them “enterprise potatoes” and will charge a couple of bucks for them because these ones are remarkably good and you should really have some. Yeah, there are really some of those around, but you know what: People will eventually find out that these people might not have any clue about cooking and that the potatoes – and maybe everything else they ever brought to a party or will bring to a party – isn’t really theirs.

In the end there’s a lot of turkey and other food these days and even though the other guests are eating from the same turkey and you’re afraid they could grab the last piece of cake you still appreciate them being around and shared the stuff you brought with them. That’s what friends do, right? If in a couple of years there might not be any turkeys around people might rethink their understanding of “friendship” and think twice if they really want to share the food they brought or discuss their recipes. But what if this day will ever come? Everybody will be sitting in his own house. In silence, with no one to talk to. Some will have a mashed potatoes dinner, others will have a graving-only dinner, others again might be able to afford some enterprise-turkey (which will probably not taste any good if it doesn’t come with any side dishes) and nobody will have the full thanksgiving experience. The food will be always the same and not improve from year to year. But yes, you’ll be the only one having pecan pie and that stupid guy won’t have some…

And there’s another aspect to this: After the feast everybody is going home remembering two things: The first one is, that you make a really good pecan pie, or at least that you made a pecan pie before and know what it is to watch out while preparing a pecan pie or maybe even other pies. If your friend needs help baking a pie in the future he will most likely come back to you and might offer you a job helping him out with baking pies. And if your pie was really, really good he will even tell others if there are looking for assistance for any pie-baking projects.
The second point is that your friends will remember that you shared your pie with them and the next time you want to impress your in-laws with some awesome home-made mashed potatoes give them a call and they might be willing to share the recipe with you or might even come over to spend a fun day with you in the kitchen to teach you how to prepare the food.
Actually, there’s a third point: There are always people showing up at thanksgiving dinners or other party not bringing anything, enjoying the regular turkey and eating all the other side dishes and desserts. That’s perfectly ok. After all it is thanksgiving and you’re not going to judge them, right? But the next time these people stumble over a good bottle of red wine or a nice recipe they might remember that and bring that to next year’s thanksgiving party to share it with you.

So, you’re still asking if you should open source your code? It really comes down to if you want to be the lonely enterprise potato or the awesome pecan pie. You decide…

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