Monday, March 19, 2007

Open Source Community and Barack Obama

So you are wondering what Barack Obama and the open source community have to do with eachother? Well I've been catching up on blogland recently and came across a few new posts arguing the definition of open source community and implying the way we do things at JBoss is less pure than it should be. The argument laid out by posts like these actually reminds me of the wave of press focused on the question: Is Obama Black Enough?

"Obama's mother is of white U.S. stock. His father is a black Kenyan," Stanley Crouch recently sniffed in a New York Daily News column entitled "What Obama Isn't: Black Like Me." "Black, in our political and social vocabulary, means those descended from West African slaves," wrote Debra Dickerson on the liberal website Salon. Therefore....Obama is not black enough. Makes logical sense, right? Uhhhh.....I don't think so!

The definition of open source community isn't as singular in nature as some would like you to believe either. Definitions of open source community that focus on one way to do things or one way to interact and communicate are missing the bigger picture. Open source communities extend beyond those who interact directly on the open source projects, mailing lists and forums, and include the users, customers and partners in a wide variety of ways. In my opinion, there are neighborhoods within the larger community that have their own perspectives and ways of interacting with the larger community. So, yes, there is the core open source development neighborhood, but there are also neighborhoods for customers, partners, indirect users, etc. and they are all active community participants in their own ways.

In order to reach out to this bigger community, the Professional Open Source model we use at JBoss enables our developers to spend some of their time delivering services to our customers - via support, training, or consulting. This affords them the ability to interact directly with users who may not be subscribed to the individual project mailing lists, forums, etc. We also have Product Managers, Sales Engineers, Support Engineers, Trainers, and Consultants who spend a lot of time with customers and partners discussing and understanding their technical requirements and funneling that input directly into the open source process. At Red Hat, we spend a lot of time looking for new ways of serving, expanding, and recognizing our community including user conferences, roadshows, Innovation Awards, Red Hat Challenge, client advisory boards, web conferences, face to face meetings, etc.

The definition of open source community need not be so black and white.
Like the software these communities produce, the definition of community needs the chance to evolve and change in ways that we can't even imagine.

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