Attended my old Linux Users Group in NH last night: there was no scheduled speaker, so it was mostly just a “hang out and talk” type of meeting at Martha’s, in Nashua, NH.
Here’s a summary of how the meeting went from my point of view:
Had fun with all the MerriLUG folks last night. I also got to experience driving out of the Boston area during rush hour last night for the first time, which was significantly less fun.
Some things which were discussed:
* Results of the recent quarterly meeting, and location of the next one
* General questions on Linux:
** Why won’t my screen turn off when the computer goes into standby?
** How can I do load testing of MySQL and network traffic?
* Raffling off of books from Ken
* How Vendor/Client relationships are like teenage sex: They’re hormone driven and have no basis whatsoever in reality.
I also led some discussion on Ning. The reason I brought it up was in part because it is following the model of the open source world so much more closely than many other
services out there:
* Ning provides a “hosted” PHP framework
* All code, by default, is “open source” — can be viewed by anyone with an account.
* Users can “clone” applications: take the current application and customize it to their own liking from the same code
* Data is stored in a universal content store, and data is (by default) accessible to all applications across the server. So, my application “gnhlugbookshelf” can also read from the “restaurantreviewswithmaps application
* Income comes in via advertisements sold on the sidebar of the applications, as well as premium services (more space, removal of view source links, and the like)
Most of the time when this is described, it’s described as an “experiment” - can a company make money solely off ads to run their servers? Can premium services pay for all this? My experience with LiveJournal says yes: LiveJournal makes all its money off premium services (no ads), and they gross several million a year. However, their employees are paid much less than Ning’s are, so who knows.
I also mentioned the creation of GNHLUG Bookshelf, an application which “aims to store the suggestions and recommendations of the New Hampshire Linux Users Group on technical books that are the most useful of the bunch.”
Lots of interesting discussion on the business model behind Ning, where it could go from here, and how service is really where the money is these days. Give away the code: sell the service. RedHat learned from this model, and others are doing so too - Ning is simply a widescale demonstration of “give away the code”.
There are aspects of Ning which aren’t given away: the code that runs the playground itself is not open source, but the applications that run on it are. The “secret bits” are still probably important enough to Ning that open sourcing would give away a competitive advantage, but the PHP bits aren’t, since they’re easily reproducible.
Another thing that came up is how much control you have over code you write for Ning and taking it elsewhere. This is a question that has come up in developer discussion before, about how to take your application code elsewhere. What it comes down to is that Ning provides a lot of functionality: shared content store, tagging, user auth, etc., that doesn’t exist anywhere else. There’s no clone of the functionality which you can drop in and replace with something else. There’s nothing to stop people from mirroring the API and creating a way to drop Ning apps into your own webserver, it just hasn’t been done yet. So although you can take the code with you - you own it - it doesn’t do you much good without a lot of work to reproduce the functionality that Ning already provides for you.