The community is angry!

The community has spoken, and it is ANGRY. Why? Good question.

Whatever you do, don't rile the community. I posted an innocuous suggestion earlier today that had this as its basic conclusion:

For those in the commercial open-source world (and that's most everyone now), we need to focus on finding ways to draw more people into the cash/code bargain without sacrificing the benefits that derive from fee-free adoption of open source.

Shocking, isn't it? The vast majority of the world would look at that statement and shrug. "The community?" Well, it's apparently a shocking thought to want to find ways to sell more of what one produces. Tarus went on a rampage, discrediting everything in his path...except my argument, which he conveniently overlooked. Dana called it "dumb[]." Benjamin Reed inexplicably calls my post "sensationalist," as if I have something to gain from denigrating open source (??? Benjamin, I work for a 100 percent open-source company - any money from CNET is peanuts compared to my day job).

Guys: Are we reading the same post? I really think you didn't read a single word in my post beyond "free rider." Go back and re-read it. Seriously. I don't think it says what you think it says. I'm honestly bewildered by the responses. They don't seem to comport to the reality of what I wrote.

Ah, community. They love you...until they don't. Say the right things, and you're a hero. Step out of line and you're, well, flame-bait. But in this case I didn't even say anything remotely approaching sensationalist. I just said "It would be great to get more people contributing." I almost fell asleep typing it, it's so bland.

Savio suggests that "the community" may be hurting open-source businesses. Most days I'd find this simply wrong, but reading the responses to a harmless suggestion that people should contribute more to open-source projects...it makes you wonder.

Benjamin, I was speaking from my own experience (both with my company and those I advise), as well as a decade's worth of experience following various open-source communities like Linux, Apache, etc. I see you write things like...

In other words, the "free-riders" are not just some abstract pool of people from which you extract cash. In a true open-source project, they are the foundation that makes the project something great. Everyone who is a contributing part of an open-source project was once a "free-rider" who just wanted to try it out. Every person involved in any way at all adds momentum, even if it's just by asking a question and being answered on the list. That answer goes into the global pool of knowledge (which maybe a future user will find, while googling, and won't have to ask himself).

...and I appreciate the thought. But you're speaking of a small minority of successful open-source projects. I would love to see all open source operate like this, but it doesn't. That's not my opinion. It's an established fact. You're describing an open-source ideal, one that I hold in as high esteem as you do. But it's very hard to come by.

Regardless, my argument was not that the world of free riders should be pilloried and decimated. Re-read my post. It was simply that we need to find ways to get more code or cash from communities. I'd be ecstatic to never get a penny but get lots of code. Most people, however, don't contribute documentation, bug reports, bug fixes, code, cash, awareness, or anything else. They just use the software, if they even do that much (I suspect most downloads die on the vine).

Even in that I suggested there's some positive value. So why were we disagreeing, again? Or were we?

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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