Although this particular train of thought coalesced somewhere over the Rocky Mountains on my flight last night, it has been percolating for far longer. It’s something I’ve been turning over for some time now, and has been the subtext to multiple internal RedMonk discussions.
What triggered the thought process itself, I believe, were the mutiple post-announcement requests for a Microsoft/Novell Q&A which I hope I have delivered on (although I know there are aspects I have yet to address, like the OIN). Candidly, it’s very gratifying to find that these pieces are finding an interested audience, not just because they tend to be overly long (I’ve clearly learned nothing from one of my favorite authors), but because the format that was once considered a bit wonky seems to be picking up fans here and there.
This interest, these requests, made me stop and think for a minute about why I’m able to answer those questions, and how we’re able to do so with free-as-in-beer research, unlike the vast majority of the firms that do what we do. We believe that giving back in this fashion (as well as in other ways) is important, because we want to ensure that the communities we benefit from in turn benefit from us. True, our contributions pale next to the value of much of the software we consume; I could write a hundred Q&As every day for the rest of my life and not deliver even a fraction of the value embodied in a single Gentoo minimal install disc. But the intent is there and hopefully that counts for something.
As much as we believe in giving back, however, we do have mortgages to pay and beers to drink, so we need paying customers that share our belief in this model and the importance of participation, openness and transparency. That appreciate that value can be measured by metrics other publications produced only for paying customers. That appreciate that there are fundamental shifts underway in how authority and reputation are accorded and maintained. That appreciate that sometimes value creation is indirect.
Fortunately, we’re finding such customers. From those that have been with us almost from day one (almost four years ago now, wow) like IBM and Sun, to our latest recruits such as IONA, MuleSource, MySQL, and SpiceWorks, we’re proud to work with each and every one of them. But while we convey, I think, our pleasure at that aspect of our relationship, I do not think we do a good enough job recognizing that it’s ultimately their support – their patronage if you prefer that description of the model – that allows us to publish the research that we do and otherwise give back to communities wherever we can. Research which we hope benefits a much wider community of than just our customers.
This is can be a non-trivial decision for firms used to working with traditional analysts in a certain way. Working with RedMonk means that you will not be gifted with report after report describing your products in glowing ternms, and that you will be criticized just as publically as you’ll be praised – and that anyone reading our content will have their say as well. It means that anyone can pick up the phone (or AIM, GTalk or Skype) and talk directly to an analyst, but that as a consequence of our openness we can be hard to schedule. It means that our research will be driven primarily by the questions we see amongst the various architectrs, developers and technology adopters we work with, not your marketing agenda. We obviously feel that these costs come with significant benefits, and it’s to each and every customer’s credit that they’re able to perceive them.
I hope that no one reads all of this as a claim that supporting RedMonk is like supporting open source; that would be blasphemous considering the massive delta in value creation, not to mention presumptuous of our actual import. If you do, I’ve failed. All that said, however, I do believe the principle is similar, given that we use the funds provided to us to produce the best, independent research that we are able to. We do not, of course, accept money to produce commissioned research, but in a very real if indirect way, our customers are the lifeblood behind whatever value you extract from your interactions with us.
I should also be clear that I am not contending that these transactions are somehow charitable in nature or altruistic: we believe that we provide significant value back to each and every one of them via consulting, networking, media handling, introducing third party perspectives, community relations, proactive notification, and more. What I’m saying more is that working with RedMonk (we hope) results in byproducts that benefit communities beyond just our customers and ourselves.
It is my hope that when you see the next generation of redmonk.com (it’s coming along agonizingly slowly), we’ll do a better job at giving our customers credit for their continuing support and what they allow us to produce. But in the meantime, if you know folks that work for one of the following firms, do us a favor and thank them for us: A9, Amazon, Adobe, BEA, db4objects, Documentum, Eclipse, EnterpriseDB, FiveRuns, Greenplum, IBM, Iona, JustSystem, Liberty Alliance, MuleSource, MySQL, Palamida, Scalix, Sleepycat (Oracle), SlickEdit, SOAWare, SourceLabs, SpiceWorks, Sun, Workshare, Zend.