Some days ago I was talking with my friend Jim Grisanzio about open source communities and how they are created. Actually some companies, moved by economic strategies, ideology, vogue or whatever other reason, are promoting free software or almost-free software. This way to make business is totally new and in many cases some companies don’t have the experience to gain benefits from it, so the first step is to try to “copy” the way others do and in that way maybe gain the same participation from the open source and free software community.
The challenge to create a community is hard to reach and the success not guaranteed. Money is inverted, marketing is created, seminars are arranged and in some cases the whole project fails.
If the whole infrastructures are created, why in so many cases the project fail? I think that the reason is that in a traditional community people follow some rules and participate in activities already created by the community founders or officers. In case of a free software community, like LUG’s the rules are created only to guarantee the surviving and protection of the community itself. Any member is free to start a new idea, to start a new project, to comment it and to gain approval by the respect and enthusiasm of others. It is not a bureaucratic approval, it is a moral approval. So anyone feels part of something, not in the way a organ is part of the body to do a specific function, but in the way a person is part of a common knowledge and the author of that piece of knowledge.
Actually I’m a member and vice-president of the Tokyo Linux Users Group (TLUG). I joined this LUG in 2000. Through all these years I could see how the number of members and their enthusiasm increased. TLUG is an spontaneous association, born thanks to the enthusiasm and effort of Linux geeks that created it. There wasn’t and there is no company or institution behind it. Just a group of geeks that enjoy together their preferred operating system and the philosophy about free knowledge and free speech. The LUG really works!
The spirit of this group exists because anyone is free to propose a new idea and see his/her contribution really working in it. There are no walls between members, no complicated protocols or rules. Just the common sense of people that like to enjoy talking and playing with Linux and open source technologies. In this way any member becomes someone that provides something, give and produce something, being a creator and an author instead of just a user with rights and duties.
Actually I think that one of the open source communities created by a company (Sun) is really working good is the Opensolaris community. The beginning was hard but it is growing really fast thanks to the effort of its members and specially the work of Jim that is a really good communicator and had the natural ability to join networks of people. In this kind of communities the respect and merit of its members is always more important than marketing or corporation names.
Good luck Opensolaris guys you are doing it really good.