1 April, 2019

The Sauce on Open Source

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Article By

Michael Teglgaard Nielsen, Director, Flowtale
Rasmus Hanberg Thomsen, Director, Flowtale


The vast majority of our customers don’t really care about code. Full stop. Where we source it from is a topic that’s even more likely to lead to glazed eyes and off-topic reflections on the weather. Here’s the first post in a 5-post series on the Flowtale Way

In our experience, what customers really crave is high-quality solutions that show a return on investment quickly, while at the same time causing minimal drama to business as usual. This seems like a pretty fair expectation to have of a service provider, but all too often, the basics take a back seat in the quest for the next big thing. 

Open source is the code we use at Flowtale to unlock both.

High-Quality Solutions

While I’d like to appear revolutionary by stating that open source code is simply better than any proprietary code you would ever pay money for, I’m simply repeating an empirical fact, not to mention common sense. 

As an example, you could gather 10 of the most talented developers on the planet and pay them a bomb to write your code, but the end solution would never be as good as the 10,000 users who tested and trimmed the code over time. What’s more, imagine having to deal with those egos?

Sites like ‘Sourceforge’ also allow users to see how many times a source code has been downloaded. So in general, source code that’s been downloaded 100,000 times is probably better than similar code with fewer downloads. The same principle applies for sites like https://stackoverflow.com which developers use as a ‘knowledge trust’ they can turn to for a second opinion or problem-solving. 

As the principal developer of Linux, Linus Torvalds, famously stated ‘Many eyeballs made bugs shallow.’ So with time and many eyeballs, Open Source code becomes solid software. It’s a no-brainer.

High-Quality Solutions

By using open-source code, we’re standing on the shoulders of the many and our developers have a fast-track ticket straight past low-value work, because the code has already been developed, tried and tested. This means they can focus their time on developing solutions tailored to the needs of the particular customer, making the end-to-end process much faster. 

And did I mention, Open Source code is free? This means that we can provide high quality, tailored solutions at an affordable price for companies of all sizes. And consequently, a faster return on their IT spend than probably ever before.

Minimum Drama to Business as Usual

While we take a modular approach to develop tailored technical solutions for customers, one thing we try to maintain across the board is minimum drama for users and consequently, business as usual. To achieve this, we develop solutions that work alongside customers’ existing IT infrastructure. This reduces the spend on large IT change programmes and training, and the frustrations associated with the user learning curve required to operate the new solution. 

This is a hidden cost most companies don’t account for when they bring in new IT systems and solutions, but in many cases, the hidden costs can amount to more than the original investment over the long-term. Read about the solution we provided for Rambøll for a great example of this approach in action.

Play at Your Own Risk

Open source code is all about freedom and social solidarity. Freedom to operate, freedom to run the code, study it, change it and redistribute copies with or without changes. It’s about so much more than just ‘free stuff’ you can get as a developer. 

So now you’ve tasted the sauce of open source, it’s probably not a good time to drop your ‘HTML for dummies’ guide in the rush to sourceforge.net. That’s because open-source code isn’t exactly ‘plug and play’ – you’re going to need a minimum level of development experience to get you where you want to be. An even better approach would be to simply get us to do it all for you!