It’s funny – some can argue that open source software has been around since probably earlier than I was born. But even the definitive essay, Eric Raymond’s “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” was presented more than 10 years ago in 1997, and the myths surrounding open source still remain.
Hopefully, Marketcetera readers and users know that the usual myths are simply not true. Open source products are supported (Red Hat, MySQL, JBoss, Alfresco, Marketcetera, etc). The licenses aren’t anti-intellectual property (as long as you don’t redistribute our code, you never have to tell us how you use it internally). The peer review process often does make for much higher quality software than proprietary, etc. You know the drill by now.
And yet the myths persist. When Automated Trader magazine recently asked us to contribute an article on the use of open source in building trading systems – we felt we needed to include a sidebar addressing some of those myths.
We didn’t get a chance to talk too much about one benefit that flies in the face of a widely held myth: using open source software often offers more secrecy than using proprietary software. Find a bug in your 3rd-party trading system? Try telling the vendor how you caused the bug and you may have to give away your entire trading strategy. And, if the options-pricing module forced on you by your vendor is inappropriate? Good luck convincing the vendor to rewrite it just for you. In both cases, using open source software lets your own developers to fix the bug without anyone else being the wiser. No one will ever know that you’ve improved on something unless you choose to contribute that back.
So, you might ask: why would you ever contribute back to an open source project? We actually don’t believe that many of our community members will. Our friends at other commercial open source companies have similar expectations. What we all see, however, is people submitting patches for something they don’t want to maintain themselves that isn’t core to their business. Connectors to databases, fixes for minor UI bugs, translations to other languages, etc. The main features, of course, are usually developed by the companies backing the open source projects themselves.
So check out the Automated Trader article, and let us know if there are any other open source misgivings we can clear up in the next article.