Open Source community building: a guide to getting it right

Community development in open source software is not just for geeks in sandals nor for niche Linux companies any more. It’s mainstream and it’s here to stay.

The recent analysis of companies contributing code to the Linux kernel shows that large companies including Novell, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Texas Instruments are getting serious about engaging in community development. Organisations such as the LiMo Foundation are encouraging their members to work with community projects “upstream”, that is, with the community rather than in isolation,  to avoid missing out on millions of dollars worth of “unleveraged potential” (PDF link).

A diverse developer community is critically important to the long term viability of free and open source projects. And yet companies often have difficulty growing communities around their projects, or have trouble influencing the direction of the maintainers of community projects like the Linux kernel or GNOME. Sun Microsystems and AOL are prominent examples of companies which went full speed into community development, but were challenged (to say the least) in cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship with community developers. There are many more examples – but often we never even hear about companies who tentatively engage in community development, and retreat with their tail between their legs, writing off substantial investments in community development. Xara, for example, released part of their flagship software Xara Xtreme for Linux as open source in 2005, before silently dropping all investment in the community project in late 2006.

What can go wrong? What are the most common, and the most deadly errors which companies make in their community engagement strategies? And how can you avoid them? Avoiding these does not guarantee success, but failing to avoid them may be sufficient to guarantee failure.

Where to begin? Continue reading…

Related Posts

HHS Should Require the Encryption of Portable Devices Many companies use encryption on their portable devices, but the continuing parade of health data breaches demonstrates that too many organizations ha...
Is Microsoft buying Nokia? An analysis of the acquisition endgame The Elop and Ballmer duo on stage on February 11th was the main topic of discussion at this year’s Mobile World Congress. The reverberations of the Mi...
The top 10 best Android games of 2010 The history books will doubtless look back on 2010 as the year the whole Google mobile platform idea really took off. As the year closes out, the qual...
EFF Brief: “Privacy” Protections for Corporations Undermines Government Transp... EFF and a coalition of public interest groups urged the U.S. Supreme Court in an amicus brief Tuesday to reject so-called "privacy" protections for co...
Tracking Protection Lists: A privacy enhancing technology that complements Do Not Track Yesterday, Microsoft released version 9 of Internet Explorer, which includes two significant new privacy features: Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs) an...
The Next Net The moment the "net neutrality" debate began was the moment the net neutrality debate was lost. For once the fate of a network - its fairness, its ru...

We Recommend These Vendors

Launch an SSD VPS in Europe, USA, Asia & Australia on Vultr's KVM-based Cloud platform starting at $5:00/month (15 GB SSD, 768 MB of RAM).

Deploy an SSD Cloud server in 55 seconds on DigitalOcean. Built for developers and starting at $5:00/month (20 GB SSD, 512 MB of RAM).

One Comment

  1. We’re a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.
    Your site provided us with valuable information to work on.
    You’ve done a formidable job and our whole community will be
    grateful to you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *