New York Times opens up code

It’s great to see the outcome when someone inside a company truly gets Open Source. From the article:

The New York Times likes open source — so much so that, as it gradually moves more of its print operations online, it is nurturing a Web development team that has released two of its own open source projects.

XSL Cache is a PHP extension the Times is using to cache stylesheets on its Web site. DBSlayer is a tool the team developed to overcome LAMP scaling limitations that caused database replication processes to overwhelm the DB connection limits.

New York Times senior software architects Jacob Harris and Derek Gottfrid say they’ve received a mixed reception from the community, because some people just can’t understand why a print media company would jump feet first into the open source philosophy. But open source software use isn’t new to the Times, says Gottfrid. “I’ve been here a number of years, and open source has always played an integral part in everything we do.”

Gottfrid says the most frequent comment he hears about the New York Times’ foray into open source Web development is “‘That’s surprising.’ They general think of us just as a newspaper, so they don’t understand why we would be doing this. Is there a secret angle? But as soon as they read some posts, they start to break it down and understand. Now there’s a bunch of people interested in this.”

Harris agrees. “We’re no longer just a print company, we’re a technology company. We need to express ourselves in technological terms. The best way to do that is to give the developers a voice.”

While it’s a bit surprising to see a mainstream media company ahead of the curve like this, it’s a clear indication that a couple motivated people can make a huge difference even at a large company. Open Source enables this kind of thing. Kudos to Jacob and Derek for making it happen. I’d guess it was more work internally then they lead on in the article. I’d also guess it will pay large dividends in the end. I found another part of the article interesting:

Harris says he’s received some pushback from members of the open source community. “We went to OSCON, and some people were very excited that we were there, and some were like, what the hell are you doing here. A lot of people feel like we’re pretty much irrelevant, and that they know what our business model should be. When you talk to geeks, they say ‘just stop printing the newspaper,’ but that would pretty much bankrupt us overnight.”

I’ve been meaning to post about the current advertising bubble for a while. It’s outside the normal scope of this blog, but is something I follow fairly closely. This is a public reminder to make that post, but suffice it to say that I do not think the “free but ad supported” model is the panacea some people think it is (although it is indeed the right fit in many situations).

–jeremy

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