Subject: Dealing with the Open Source community
From: Simon Cozens <>
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 15:40:08 +0000

Here's something to think about, and I'd appreciate hearing your

More and more "old guard" commercial software businesses are
trying to get into open source, pushing out their old software or
getting involved in development; publishers, support companies,
consultancy companies, recruitment agencies, and so on, are all getting
involved with the Open Source community.

And, on the whole, they're making a mess of it. This is because they're
used to dealing with a certain type of corporate culture, or development
culture, and they know what they expect from programmers and those
working in the community - but they're wrong. Our community is not like
their expectations.

What I'd like to do (and I know Skud has also expressed some interest,
and anyone else can play that wants to, this is Open Source after
all...) is to write an article or a guide (which may blossom into a
complete book, God willing and time permitting) explaining the new world
order, the way old style companies should interact with the new style
technocracy, a sort of 'Dealing with the Open Source Community HOW-TO'. 

Here are three sample ideas I'm planning on expounding:

i) Personal contact is everything.

If you want to get someone from the open source community on your side,
you need to engage with them personally. Form letters don't impress
anyone - we get enough spam. If you're lucky, you'll just get ignored;
otherwise, you might find your ISP having strong words with you.

If you have someone "on the inside", get them to personally introduce
you to the hackers you want to talk to. If not, do your homework. Find
out what this guy has done, what their interests are, and tell them how
you found them, what you know about them, and what you think about it.

ii) Your status means little.

With very few exceptions, status from the commercial world does not
translate to status in the open source community. In open source
programming, status is not measured in dollars but in lines of code. If
you're a business trying to get involved in an open source project,
don't throw managers at it - throw coders at it, and don't let them
forget that they're working under the direction of the project manager
just like everyone else. You can't come in and take over, no matter who
you are. You have to prove your worth by *our* status metrics, not
yours; finally, don't try to impress us - that's the ultimate turnoff.

iii) We do this for fun.

The vast majority of programmers, writers, and other helpers in the open
source community do it for one simple reason - fun. We don't get paid
for it, we don't *have* to do it. We do it because we love it. You can't
replace that love or that fun with money, or indeed with anything else.
You have to maintain the sense of fun, above all else. Sometimes what
we're doing stops being fun, and we branch off and fiddle with something
else - bear in mind that the best hackers sometimes have the smallest
attention spans - and so we need the freedom to take a break and do
some other interesting thing as well. And if it completely stops being
fun, we can easily walk away and do something else, and never come back.
So keep it fun.

I have other ideas, but I'd be interested in hearing what *you* think is
the message that needs to be got across to those who need to hear it.


The problem with big-fish-little-pond situations is that you
have to put up with all these fscking minnows everywhere.
    -- Rich Lafferty