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In my company we are developing a large open source piece of software. To do this we have hired many developers. To pay these developers we have gotten business partners and investors to help cover the cost.

However these people are not the most tech savvy people and it is often hard to explain to them what they are investing in!

My question:

Is there any way to make open source projects more interactive for business partners or investors?

For example: would it be recommended to teach them some coding to show them what they are investing in?

  • I don't see how this is specific to open source - the same challenges should be present in any case. – Michael Schumacher Jun 28 '15 at 19:56
  • @MichaelSchumacher It might not be specific but it would certainly apply to an open source project. – Zizouz212 Jun 28 '15 at 20:08
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Trying to teach your investors how to program is likely a waste of time. They are not inclined to learn it, they don't have the time to learn it, and it is unlikely to help them make a business decision (People who can code a bit are often worse managers than those who can not code at all, because they often believe to know far more than they actually do).

The open source culture and its productivity might be fascinating to us programmers, but businesspeople are not interested in this. They are only interested in:

  1. How much will it cost me?
  2. How will it make me money?
  3. How much money will it make me?
  4. When will it start to make me money?
  5. What is the risk it won't make me money?

When you want to convince businesspeople to fund your project, you need to present them a business case which answers these questions and explains why it is more profitable to open source this project than to develop it under a proprietary license.

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My preferred approach is to pick an open source project with a business model similar to your own.

For example Automatic (the parent company of wordpress.com) has about 400 employees and they serve 131 million customers per month. Compare this to Facebook who serves 129 million customers and has around 10,000 employees.

If Wordpress was closed source, they would not be anywhere near as successful as they are.

Another good comparison is Windows compared to OS X and Android. Microsoft was extremely successful when their only competitor was closed source (Mac OS).

But once Apple started using open source for the core of their software platform, and later on Google came in and did the same thing with Android, those those two companies managed to create operating systems far more successful than Windows will ever be.

Same thing with web browsers, IE dominated when all the good browsers were closed source. But faced with open source competition like WebKit and later Blink, suddenly IE is unable to compete and only kept alive because of Microsoft's monopoly position.

If you look at Microsoft's more recent projects, they're using open source all over the place. Microsoft has recognised that being closed source is a massive disadvantage.

Try to find a similar comparison to those ones, where open source allows a project to be far more successful than if it was closed source in a way that matches your own project and explain why open source will work for your project.

As for getting them involved, about the only thing you can do is encourage them to be active in your issue tracker.

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Don't talk to them about things they don't care about. Clients who come to you to ask you to write code for them have no interest in learning how to write said code themselves.

Talk to them about things they do care about. At risk of sounding a little harsh, basically all your client cares about is getting a good product for a small cost.

Tell them what features you're working on, and ask them how they'd like them done. Talk about how on-time and under-budget you are if possible (don't lie). If something goes wrong, tell them about that too, because if you don't and they hear of it later they won't be happy.

You should get their opinions, mainly. It's a work for them, make sure they're happy with it.

  • Comments removed. Remember to be civil, even when people don't deserve it. – ArtOfCode Aug 21 '15 at 13:10

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