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OSCON14: Community War Stories - Squaring the Circle between Business and Community


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Open Source has won! Today, most open source developers or users work for commercial entities and more and more companies use open source. Yet open source communities are still about the people, not the companies employing them. This leads to never-ending tension on the boundary between business and community, which only the most successful community leaders manage well.

In this talk we will look at some of the basic dynamics playing out in open source communities and introduce some mental models explaining them. We will look at the Open Source Flywheel (inspired by Walton’s Productivity Loop and the Bezos Flywheel) and the Open Source Community Funnel (inspired by Sales Funnels) to explain them.

We will then explore the tension between community and businesses in some more detail, in the form of war stories (or case studies). These stories will cover real incidents where business interests and communities were in conflict: some were resolved amicably; others led to significant problems within the community. The stories will span the author’s experience with Eclipse, the Symbian Foundation, Linaro, the Xen Project and other open source projects.

We will investigate the underlying issues for each story, draw lessons and link explain them to the mental models we introduced earlier.

We will establish best practices for businesses, their employees and community managers to defuse tensions on the boundary of business and community. Mastering the skills to square the circle between business and community is a never-ending challenge. Being able to do so consistently will give your open source project an edge in the competitive world of open source and help secure the long-term future of your project.

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OSCON14: Community War Stories - Squaring the Circle between Business and Community

  1. 1. Lars Kurth Community Manger, Xen Project Chairman, Xen Project Advisory Board Director, Open Source Business Office, Citrix lars_kurth
  2. 2. Was a contributor to various projects Worked in parallel computing, tools, mobile and now virtualization Community guy at Symbian Foundation Learned how NOT to do stuff Community guy for the Xen Project Working for Citrix Member of OSS Business Office Accountable to Xen Project Advisory Board Chairman of Xen Project Advisory Board
  3. 3. Open Source Business Office : 7 people: stewardship of strategic projects and spreading best practices internally Own Citrix’ Open Source Strategy Strategic Projects and Open Source Organizations Membership, OSS Leaders, Contributors, Evangelists, …
  4. 4. Source: The 2014 Future of Open Source Survey Result
  5. 5. The # of Projects is growing rapidly 2007: 0.2M projects Today: 1.0M projects, 100Billion LOC, 10M contributors 2015: 1.8M projects John Morgan @ Flickr Simon & His Camera @ Flickr Kumar Appaiah @ Flickr
  6. 6. 50% of all enterprises adopt OSS software Julian Manson @ Flickr
  7. 7. 30% of companies make it easy for employees to contribute to projects Influencing a project’s direction is one of the main reason for contributing Nick @ Flickr toffehoff @ Flickr
  8. 8. Open Source Flywheel
  9. 9. [1]
  10. 10. 2001: Open Sourced by IBM 2001 – 2003: Growth from 8 to 80 consortia members 2006: Callisto 10 projects, 260 committers 2004: Eclipse Foundation 2011: 10th Birthday 273 projects, 1057 committers, 50+ MLOC, 174 members (see More projects/products/users, improved process, improved option value/modularity, … …
  11. 11. Tragedy of the Commons (sort of) Moyan Brenn @ Flickr
  12. 12. snoopsmouse @ Flickr
  13. 13. Bruce Schneier Internationally renowned security Technologist @Bruce_Schneier Catastrophic is the right word [for Heartbleed]. On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11.
  14. 14. Source: Growing Codebase Static and small contributor base 1 person maintaining 100 KLoC = Underinvestment Extremely large user base Critical infrastructure component Thus impact of Heartbleed is huge
  15. 15. snoopsmouse @ Flickr
  16. 16. Features How many users you have How many vendors back you How you are seen in the press …
  17. 17. Not all Open Source projects are the same Perform due diligence before using a project Using Open Source is not free Exchanging cost against risk Of course: licensing and other implications Contributing reduces risk Everyone can help with Marketing and PR, raising bugs, improving documentation, … Vinovyn @ Flickr
  18. 18. If you use Open Source Have an Open Source Strategy Vinovyn @ Flickr
  19. 19. Create a balanced Flywheel Master different skills Vinovyn @ Flickr
  20. 20. Follow Industry News Follow Project News Adopt Software Engage with Users Trial Software Engage with Industry Evangelize Contribute Customize Lead Activities Events
  21. 21. Open Source Flywheel revisited The boundary between Business and Communities
  22. 22. Create a balanced Flywheel Master many different skills Vinovyn @ Flickr Get Companies to help you
  23. 23. Undefined Responsibilities cause problems Moyan Brenn @ Flickr
  24. 24. Xen Project Advisory Board trying to push a preferred test harness over community solution Paralysis: no new test code written Delay of roll-out of independently hosted Test Farm Risk of Test Farm not being adopted • Working group jointly led by community and Advisory Board • Group resolved the issue
  25. 25. HW vendor trying to use private channels to Citrix Xen Project maintainers to get an edge Committers needed the vendor help to progress their goals Vendor trying to get more and more Potential of lack of trust in our Xen Project maintainers • A rather difficult conversation • Vendor starting to follow community practices and additionally donating (non-developer) resources to the project
  26. 26. Vendors and individuals competing for review time from stretched maintainer / reviewer base Patch queue growing Frustration by vendors & maintainers Potential of slowing growth Potential of loosing new vendors • Grow reviewer base by identifying capable candidates • Get backing from vendors to ensure candidates stay engaged in community (if vendor employee) • Mentor candidates to get them effective more quickly than normal
  27. 27. Tedious and Business Unfriendly Rules Moyan Brenn @ Flickr
  28. 28. Vendors wants to promote project at events (swag, booth, collateral, …) Tedious approval process for every single instance • PMC approval • VP of Trademark approval (bottleneck) Frustrated vendors Frustrated community • Simplify process for common situations • Proposal at
  29. 29. Clear Rules and Responsibilities Remove tension Create trust Works best when aligned with Flywheel Business friendly Rules Simple and Easy Enables businesses to help the community Long term Effect: Community sees value in company participation Vinovyn @ Flickr
  30. 30. CommunityCompanies • PR / AR / Marketing / Messaging • Membership Rules / Trademarks / Legal • Provide funds to solve Common Good problems • Referee of last resort • Principles (aka Values) • Roles • Decision Making • Project Lifecycle • Community Initiatives, Best Practices, … Advisory Board WGs Project Governance Test WGs
  31. 31. Vinovyn @ Flickr
  32. 32. Maria Ly @ Flickr
  33. 33. Neutrality / Perception Support Infrastructure Expertise / Mentoring Vendor Network … BUT: You still need to do all the right things
  34. 34. Tchami @ Flickr
  35. 35. Please rate the talk