Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Corporate managed Open Source and Community Relations

Community relations key to open source success | Open Source | ZDNet.com
"Even a corporate-managed open source project needs a strong community to survive. The customers are paying the “taxes,” as it were, that keeps the whole thing alive. They deserve representation.

But finding the right balance here is a bit like creating an 18th Century Constitution. Who gets to choose? Who is to be considered part of a project’s “middle class,” for governing purposes?"
I just saw this post, which ends with an important question.

"What is the right balance between community and corporate interest?"

We all know by experience that Open Source projects are nothing without a strong community. They need the community to survive. The more passionate the community is about a project, the more adoption you see. Plain and simple.

But can a 'corporate managed' Open Source project let key decisions made by community vote alone? The internal stakeholders (read: board, VCs) might not like this for sure, since they need a say on the direction of these projects. Why? because more often than not these projects are, in their view, products of the company. Whether they are hot or not in the eyes of a user (read: paying enterprise users) take priority over implementing the grand vision for the project echoed by the community. But in order to maintain the meritocracy, those key members of community should have a say too. Otherwise we end up with forks and the political issues they bring in.

I think compartmentalizing a project to a bunch of smaller components can help. That way, you are breaking down the community into special interest groups. So the product would be an assembly of components each cared for passionately by the component communities. They get a louder voice at that level.

The product would be a collection of these components, hand picked and assembled by internal stake holders. Obviously, these internal stakeholders get the upper hand when dealing with a product.

At the end, we have a fairly nice balance between community and corporate interest. I think this is the bigger picture we have to keep in mind when adopting architectural solutions such as OSGi.