I had a fantastic visit to the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory in Berkeley today. They were quite generous with the samples, and even more interesting, they showed us the exact process they use to make their chocolate, recipes and all. They even let us take pictures of their equipment inside the factory. As the tour guide (Mandy) told us, "We're the only chocolate factory in the US or Europe that not only allows you inside the factory, but we let you take pictures". It's like an open source chocolate factory.
Ok, not exactly. I can't start modifying their chocolate making process with my own beans and spices. But the transparency of their process and ingredients reminded me of open source software. The transparency builds trust with their clients, who are now more confident about exactly what they're eating. They are obviously confident that nobody will steal their processes, and for good reason. I may know now how they make chocolate, but investing the millions of dollars to copy them is not something I'm willing to spend the time and effort to do. As you can probably tell by now, I'm making parallels to software here.