Where I see open source failing is when the goal is only for companies to maximize profits and minimize costs without taking a broader view of their product. I am not naïve, companies exist to make a profit but they need to figure out how to maximize their leverage by participating in open source which involves creating a healthy project that extends farther than their own self interest. I often say those that miss the point are taking the Tom Sawyer, “Paint my fence” approach to opens source. The ones that benefit the most are those that take the Beautiful Mind/John
Nash (referring to his theories in game theory) where contributors act in both their own best self interest as well as the best interest of the community.
When you’re interviewing a Slackware developer, you have certain expectations about what they’ll say in terms of controlling your own system and Eric delivers. In fact, he makes the case that Slackware, known as a more challenging system to setup and maintain, is valuable because it requires so much thought. Which is true—I’ve always seen Slackware as one part distro and one part teaching tool. The rest of Eric’s interview is great as he’s a very smart guy who’s spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a distro work, not just in terms of specific software, but also in terms of what’s ultimately best for the user in the long-term.
I definitely think that open source technologies are what made my self-education of development possible. I think that being able to experiment with open source projects and libraries as a young student was crucial for me in becoming who I am today. Without that exposure, or that access to the development world, I probably would have given up out of frustration thinking the barrier-to-entry was too high or over my head! I'm grateful that I was able to discover the open source world.
As I looked around the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing career fair (PDF) floor, I stopped by the Pinterest booth and learned that open source software plays a big role at the company. And even better, Pinterest now plays a big role in the world of open source software, too.
After the career fair, I followed up with the technical lead on the Pinterest Growth engineering team, Ludo Antonov. Ludo says that the Growth team builds the features, core products, and systems that directly help sustainably grow Pinterest to billions of users worldwide. In this interview, he explains the roles open source software plays at the company.
The first ever Europe Code Week took place last year and was largely an experiment to test things out. Opensource.com covered it in an interview with Julie Cullen, the Irish Ambassador, asking her what activities were planned in her home country. This year, Europe Code Week has even more activities planned, over 1000 and counting! To get more insight on the event, I interviewed Alja Isakovic, one of the Young Advisors and organizers for the Europe Code Week program. In this interview, she shares some of last year's successes and tells us what people can look forward to this year.
The culture and environment in an open source community makes a big difference, and the same is true for company cultures. A lot has been written about this issue elsewhere, and you can find some great examples of how this happens on the Geek Feminism Wiki FLOSS webpage. In open source communities and at Red Hat, there's a strong desire for meritocracy—letting the best ideas win, regardless of their source. But diversity is a crucial component of meritocracy. How can we be confident that we have access to the very best ideas, if we are missing the perspectives of distinct groups of the population? Including people from many different backgrounds and cultures leads to greater diversity of thought and ideas. Research indicates that diverse groups are more innovative and make better decisions. For the technology industry and for open source communities, the lack of women is particularly concerning, because women represent half of the global population and workforce. In the past few years, I've also become increasingly interested in the role of unconscious bias and how it impacts the job application and interview process. Our human tendency is to instinctively prefer and value people who send unconscious signals that they're one of us—that they share our beliefs, background, or other social interests. It's easy for us to overlook the contributions of someone who comes from a different gender or culture. We don't even realize that we're doing it, and we construct explanations for our preferences that seem rational. Unconscious bias a fascinating topic, and plenty has been written about it, so I encourage everyone to seek out that information and put it to good use. It's something that Red Hat now educates our associates on, as part of our job interviewer training. I think it's equally relevant when it comes to cultural norms within open source communities.
Open source projects live and die by their communities. Cultivating that core group of developers, administrators, users and other contributors who work together to improve the code base is no easy task, even for experienced community managers. There are some tried-and-true methods to follow, however, pioneered by some of the best open source communities around.