Subject: Re: Communities as the new IPR?
From: Brian Behlendorf <brian@collab.net>
Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2005 09:05:15 -0800 (PST)

On Fri, 18 Nov 2005, Jamie Lokier wrote:
> Just one small thing.
>
> mikko puhakka wrote:
>> The partner proposed that maybe in OS companies we should in
>> thinking about them consider replacing the thinking of IPR with
>> community, but still use a lot of same reference points such as:
>>
>> *How can it be protected (from the company's point of view)?
>> *How can it be nurtured/ further developed?
>> *What can we do to make sure ours is the most competitive?
>> *What can we do ensure no-one steals or copies it?
>
> Isn't it the very essence of community that its best qualities
> _should_ be copied as far and wide as possible?

I think in this context, the goal is to avoid community forks, like what 
happened with Mambo/Joomla.  Easier said than done, especially if the 
corporate goal is to seek some unfair advantage over competitors based on 
its relationship with the community.  There's not a lot of grey area 
between two general positions: either the community is based around one 
company's products and services (and ends up looking a lot like your 
traditional developer networks, a la MSDN) or is one of individual 
developers working as peers under an independent brand (a la Apache). 
You will sometimes see projects move from one type to another, whether 
intentionally or through momentum; OpenOffice will probably end up as an 
independent project at some point whether taken there explicitly by Sun or 
not, for example.  Red Hat's move to Fedora was a successful example too. 
But it's really hard to have an "independent, but not really" project 
without running the risk of pissing off the independent developers whose 
participation you need to make being an open source project worthwhile.

From the perspective of a corporate goal of "let's build a developer 
community around our brand", one of the best places to send a VC or 
business type is to von Hippel's "user-led innovation" research over at 
http://innovation.mit.edu/.  Looking at a community as not just "a bunch 
of programmers using our code" but instead as the source of innovation, 
with the corporate role shifting to that of orchestration and being the 
center of their universe, does require a change of perspective for someone 
who mutters the word "IPR" and "protection" too frequently.  The downside 
is that attracting independent developers to your corporate-branded cause 
is going to be more difficult than attracting them to an unaligned one. 
Even if the difference is purely cosmetic - there's no reason a 
corporate-branded open source project can't be run with the same openness 
and consensus-driven style as the best Apache project - the passion that 
drives someone to contribute to a brand you own is always going to be a 
bit tempered.  But looking at the millions of developers who proudly wear 
their Microsoft-branded conference schwag, maybe that matters less at 
scale.

 	Brian