The meritocratic style of Open Source communities can irritate those who simply want to make a deal to raise their own productivity (so-called pragmatists). Highly community-driven projects without at least one strong corporate leader provide too many options frustrating especially those pragmatic buyers who are willing to spend good money for the best services.
A community without one ore more strong companies is in danger to alienate pragmatists who don’t want to invest time to become part of that community to later trade merit, but instead want to invest money to benefit immediately from the expertise hidden inside the community. For highly community-driven projects, crossing the chasm also means trading merit for money and building at least one strong corporation to provide the buying experience pragmatists expect (i.e. the whole product).
For example, Drupal is still a largely community-driven Open Source CMS project without a strong company taking the place of the cathedral in the bazaar. Where could a potential pragmatic customer turn to if in search for the one and only Drupal service provider with the best expertise, longest and most successful in-market track record and offices around the globe?
In fact, things are changing when it comes to Drupal: Acquia sets out to become for Drupal what MySQL is for MySQL. Chances are good they will succeed, given their team and $7 Million VC financing. This means that Drupal can finally line up with those Open Source competitors who are Open Source CMS vendors providing enterprise-grade services, such as Magnolia, Alfresco, eZ Systems.
Interestingly, Joomla! (formerly known as the CMS called Mambo) has gone the opposite way by cutting off the one malicious corporate head and letting a thousand small heads grow. It remains to be seen if this puts Joomla! into a good position given the long march towards consolidation in the CMS market. Same goes for Plone, now a true democratic community.
Pragmatic customers want to buy the best from the best. They appreciate simple choices and distinct correlations between a product and a company – even if they just want to turn towards that company to check out which other companies provide similar services (e.g. partner companies).
In other words: Pragmatists don’t want to search whom they need to talk to. They need a point of reference, even if it is just for comparison sake. Allow me a pointed remark: A “secret society” of community members or a multitude of small companies scares pragmatists away if that’s the only way how they can get an Open Source product up and running.
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