• May 1, 2008

Feedback: May 2008

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An 'Open' Debate
While I agree that Web 2.0 and other new technologies are infiltrating CRM in very interesting ways, I was struck by one obvious error in the "Always On" article in the February 2008 issue. In John Chan's sidebar ("CRM Vendors + Web 2.0") he equates Salesforce.com's Apex concept to open-source software. This could not be further from the truth.

Salesforce.com may offer up free development access to Apex -- but nearly all vendors do this. Apex, however, is built on a closed-source language. It is not based on industry-standard development languages such as PHP. And the Apex code is only meant to work on Salesforce.com's platform, fostering an expensive and limiting vendor lock-in strategy.

True open-source companies offer up their code under an open license, such as the GPL v3. Truly open-source licenses are patent-free, allow total access to source code, and give developers the right to redistribute and utilize their changes anywhere. Salesforce.com honors none of these attributes with its proprietary license model.

Finally, the culture of open-source software development and that of proprietary models such as Salesforce.com's are vastly different. To equate these models in any way is simply wrong, and an insult to the amazing open-source communities that support some of the best software being written in the world today.

Martin Schneider
Senior Manager, Product Marketing

John Chan of ISM, Inc., responds:
ISM's equating of Salesforce.com's Apex concept to open-source software is technically correct. The term "open source" refers to a set of principles and practices on how to write software, the most important of which is that the source code be openly available. The Open Source Definition, which was created by Bruce Perens for the Debian project and is currently maintained by the Open Source Initiative, adds further meaning to the term: One should not only get the source code but also have the right to use it. If the latter is denied, the license is categorized as a shared-source license.

Salesforce.com has made its source code available online for users to configure their own software applications. With Salesforce.com's Apex programming language and development platform, customers are able to customize any component in their existing implementation or replace existing features with ones more suitable to their needs. Therefore, it technically meets the definition of open-source software outlined above.

While Mr. Schneider's criticisms of the inability of users to change the Apex code itself are valid -- the Apex code is only meant to work on Salesforce.com's platform -- the definition of the term "open source" will continue to develop as the software marketplace evolves.

An Unlucky Choice of Words
Did I actually read the article correctly where St. Patrick is referred to as a "glorified snake charmer"? ("The Power of Habit," Pint of View, March 2008.) Do you realize how insulting that is? St. Patrick is recognized as the patron saint of Ireland for his lifelong dedication to bringing Christianity to poor people of Ireland. It's amazing how Mr. Lager can make such an offensive, flippant remark. I doubt he would make such a remark about any other religion. I do not know what Mr. Lager has against the Irish, St. Patrick's Day, or Catholicism, but he should stick to subjects where he can actually make an informed, intelligent point.
Owen Murray

Marshall Lager responds:
Thanks for the feedback, and please let me apologize for offending you. My comment stemmed from the oft-repeated (and almost certainly fictitious) claim that St. Patrick "drove the snakes out of Ireland" in a manner reminiscent of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. This was drummed into me during childhood in public school whenever the holiday approached. That there never were snakes native to Ireland doesn't seem to have changed this perception, thus the comment. I should have considered the possibility that my phrasing would cross the line from good-natured ribbing to insult, but I failed to do so.

I'm not disputing St. Patrick's place of veneration in real Irish culture. My issue was with how the holiday celebrating him has become warped into a "celebration" of insulting Irish stereotypes. Few Irish-descended people I know (which includes expatriate natives) ever drink to excess, and never anything green unless it's an apple martini. They don't wear green top-hats or cultivate four-leaf clovers, and they don't much care for corned beef and cabbage. And whatever else they may revere Ireland's patron saint for, it's not for driving out snakes. Despite this, Irish people have accepted the holiday as it's celebrated--advice that can be applied to businesses that find their branding is being used in ways they didn't expect.

While it's not a central article of the Jewish faith, I don't believe that one day's worth of oil burned for eight days during the first Hanukkah. I also find the description of Siddhartha Gautama's enlightenment to Buddhahood to be highly doubtful. These don't take away from the value or impact of those two religions, and neither (in my opinion) does the fact that there never were snakes in Ireland for St. Patrick to drive out. His ministry to the poor, which you mentioned, and maintaining his faith after six years of Roman slavery, which you didn't, are the important points.

In my column, I got carried away with hyperbole in an attempt to be humorous--a constant danger when humor is part of my job and I have deadlines to meet. While I often say that if one takes a step back from anything serious one will find something to laugh at, I sometimes forget that we don't always find the same things. Again, I apologize.

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