Archives vendor spreads fear, uncertainty, and doubt about free software

For those of you who don’t know, I am a member of the free/open source software community.  I have used versions of Linux on my personal computer for four years now.  I run this server and this installation of Wordpress on a Debian GNU/Linux installation on a computer that sits in my living room.  I contribute bug reports and post on various fora to help both developers and users. I am, obviously, also a member of the archival community, and I got an email yesterday that really made me angry.  It was from an archival vendor, Eloquent Systems Inc., the seems to provide software that fills the same role as Archon.  In trying to convince me to purchase their system, they painted the entire free software community with a single stroke, saying that free software is basically unusable in a production environment.  They obviously have a right to compare themselves to other products and to state why they believe their product is better than this competition.  However, I feel that trashing an entire community is just ridiculous.  I’ve attached their email to me, along with my response, beneath the fold. Attention**: Benjamin S. Bromley ,** RE: Does free software cost too much? So many archivists are complaining that “time is wasting” and their valuable archives are still not online for the world to see. Time and money is being spent trying to get their free software working. Their professional skills cannot be used for describing their rich holdings and serving their clients. Free software sounded good, but almost a year later the results are disappointing: Lost Opportunity Other institutions have something concrete to show their stakeholders. They are attracting funding to do “more of the same”. An established system is in place and all that is required now is more help to process the backlog. Wasted Talent Too much talent is being wasted chasing the ever-evolving technology. Practical results are elusive. Staff becomes frustrated and impatient. Programmers come and go with little to show for their time. Questionable Sustainability Free software (open source) lacks a history of ongoing support. The people disappear. The funding disappears. Remaining support teams hold you hostage. Your system becomes dated. Do the Right Thing Find a supported software package with everything you need, but pay now for only what is required to get started. Then, pay as you grow. Check off the items you require from this features checklist and see if Eloquent Archives™ is right for you. Then call Lawrence Boscoe at 1-800-663-8172 ext 100 for a free demo and a quote. Plan for a significant database to show your stakeholders within 90 days. We look forward to having you as a customer! Sincerely, Corinne Hawksworth Eloquent Systems Inc. Organizing data for eloquent presentation!

Dear Corinne, I am sad to see that you and your company are spreading such lies about free software.


Sammie - Feb 6, 2010

Right on! Your response was so on target, I hope it makes them hesitate on sending out that message again. I have to say, that the glimmer of hope I see in all this is that Archon is obviously cutting into their profit margins and has them running scared. Go UIUC, Archon, and AT, for making the best contributions to the profession in years! Sincerely, A Proud Archon User (with a fully functioning site!)