Don Marti

Fri 14 Jul 2006 06:51:15 PM PDT

Open source business metrics that sound bad but are really good

How many person-years of development have you abandoned and replaced with Free code from outside the company?

Why it sounds bad: all that expensive work wasted. Code monkeys don't work for bananas, dude.

Why it's really good: Two reasons. First, Sunk cost fallacy. Second, if people are open-minded enough to kill their own projects in favor of outside software, they're open-minded enough to avoid unnecessary duplication to start with.

In how many languages are you developing new code?

Why it sounds bad: Where are we going to find Haskell programmers?

Why it's really good: Only great, powerful libraries can make people bring in alternate languages. New languages popping up in projects is a sign of healthy exploration, lack of wheel re-invention through the use of those libraries, and productivity.

How many email addresses of technical contributors appear on the web, in blogs, list archives, and public bug trackers?

Why it sounds bad: The recruiters and spammers are going to eat us alive! And how can we make sure all those people are on-message?

Why it's really good: The biggest transformation in software is the erasure of the line between "the business side" and "the technical side". Everyone needs to know what's going on in the market. And "on-message" is obsolete -- the market already knows the truth about your company from your jobs page, products, and discussion sites about your products anyway.

How many of your employees have left to work for a company that develops or intermediates an IT product that you use?

Why it sounds bad: We want to retain our staff! After all the work we put in training these people? And who are those bastard vendors think they are, anyway?

Why it's really good: If your company does something worthwhile, those people are still working to make the IT products you use do what you want. They're just making the changes further upstream. By the way, congratulations for choosing a vendor that listens to customers in an effective way.

(This is based on a series of conversations with Kim Polese and Doc Searls in preparation for "Why Spiralling Complexity is Good For You", a talk that Kim gave at a 451 Group conference last month.)