November 30, 2006

ESRI and open source

Filed under: ESRI — ubikcan @ 8:05 am

It is slowly penetrating ubikcan’s consciousness that there is mounting disquiet in the ESRI community regarding the company’s attitude toward open source.

As a weekly user of ArcGIS 9.1 (with no plans to upgrade until next summer due to likely bugs and backwards compatibility) we can attest to comments such as this:

ESRI charges quite a bit of money for their products. There software has some quality issues. With those two things going for it ESRI needs to start showing some love to the average everyday users. It is not enough that big pocketed or strategic clients get to call Jack and demand new features or bug fixes. Without a fault, every person I talk to in small to mid-size firms complains about having to use ESRI software. When I taught using ArcGIS software my students would greet me in tears because they had left a job running overnight only to be greeted with an application error.

We use ArcGIS at our large public university and I can tell you that students have valid complaints about the software (slowness, crashing, complexity). Yet there is a burning desire to know it (yes, knowing something complex gives you an edge in the market, if everybody knows something it’s no big deal) and ESRI does a good job of getting the software into the classroom. Yet just yesterday as I was coming into the classroom a student was saying to herself “oh of course, it’s crashed again.”

So open source starts to look attractive. What ESRI is achieving from this viewpoint is a high visibility among students and a high frustration, perhaps dislike. Most students will not be in a position right away to influence software decisions where they work, but first impressions are strong and many will be motivated later in their careers to explore open source options, especially as these become better known.

And this is not the first time this topic has come up.

Update: check out this forthcoming new book “we-think” on mass creativity:

My argument is that these new forms of mass, creative collaboration announce the arrival of a society in which participation will be the key organising idea rather than consumption and work. People want to be players not just spectators, part of the action, not on the sidelines.

1 Comment »

  1. […] tension between traditional GIS and open source solutions has been covered here before (eg., in this article from last November) as well as on James Fee’s website linked […]

    Pingback by ESRI cancels its books: loss of military contracts to blaim? « ubikcan — September 12, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

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