There’s something analogous to Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to the adoption of opensource, where people in IT departments prefer the perceived security of being held captive. This is something I’ve touched upon before here and here.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve tended to move away from concepts of ownership to concepts of stewardship in many contexts. As a human being, a citizen of Earth, I am a steward of natural resources. As a parent I am a steward of my children. As an employee I am a steward of corporate assets. As a member of society I am a steward of social and cultural values. In fact I think of everything I “have” as a consequence of God’s grace, even the mantle of stewardship.
Of late there’s been considerable debate, especially in Europe, about Government purchasing/procurement policies and opensource. As you would expect there’s more than one view, to put it mildly. And whenever I see such rampant polarisation, it makes me think.
And here’s where I’m at. What would happen if software vendors had to sign some sort of “tenancy agreement” as part of a delivery contract? Let me show you what I mean. Here’s an extract from a cookie-cutter tenancy agreement :
10.1 The Tenant shall keep the interior of the Property in good repair and condition and in good decorative order and in particular shall take all reasonable steps to keep the Property aired and heated and to prevent water pipes freezing in cold weather.
10.2 The Tenant shall be responsible for the professional cleaning costs at the end of the tenancy.
10.3 The Tenant shall not bring any hazardous materials into the Property and shall take all reasonable steps to avoid danger to the Property or neighbouring properties by way of fire or flooding.
10.4 The Tenant shall be responsible for cleaning and keeping free from all blockages and obstructions all baths, sinks, lavatories, cisterns and drains and in particular shall take all reasonable steps not to pour oil, grease or other damaging materials down the drains or waste pipes.
11 Communal Areas
The Tenant shall take reasonable care to keep any common entrances, halls, stairways, lifts, passageways and any other common parts clean and fit for use by the Tenant and other occupiers and visitors to the Property.
The Tenant is responsible for the maintenance of any garden areas and for keeping such areas neat and tidy and free from weeds, with any grass kept cut, subject to the Landlord providing and maintaining appropriate garden tools for this purpose.
The Tenant shall not (nor allow others to) cause nuisance or annoyance to the Landlord or his Agent or any neighbours.
The Tenant shall not (nor allow others to) cause any damage or injury to the exterior, structure or any part of the Property.
15 Alterations to Property
The Tenant shall not (nor allow others to) make any alterations, improvements or additions to the Property, including the erection of a television aerial, external decoration and additions to or alterations to, the Landlord’s installations, fixtures and fittings without the prior written consent of the Landlord. The Tenant shall not (nor allow others to) remove any of the items specified in the inventory (if any) or any of the Landlord’s possessions from the premises.
16 Repairing Damage
The Tenant agrees to make good any damage to the Property or the common parts
There’s something about this approach that really appeals to me. The software vendor becomes responsible for maintaining the area being tenanted; has to respect common areas; needs permission before carrying out alterations; must repair any damage caused; must leave the area as it was when he/she entered it in the first place.
I know it’s not perfect, but I think it can be worked on. I think it’s meaningful for proprietary as well as opensource software, I think it’s meaningful both in the specific procurement context as well as in general. I also like the idea of the environment being treated as a commons, even if we have to conjure up the concept of “private commons” and “public commons”. I know that it sounds unwieldy, but it’s a start.
We have to figure out what the common areas are, what needs to be cleaned, what needs to be kept clear, what constitutes a nuisance. What things should look like before and after.
Putting the onus of migration costs is not a new thing. I think I am proposing something more than that, I want the costs of decommissioning to be covered. Which in turn means people have to build stuff that is plug-and-play by design; not just plug-any-play, but plug-and-play while agnostic to the environment.
Enough blathering. Views? Comments? Am I on to something? Or has it all been done before? If so where and when?