"You just have to run": the secret of successful open-source projects

There is no secret to open source beyond extremely hard work.

On the Tube this morning in London, heading to the OpenAds meet-up (I was two hours late, so I "met up" with a sandwich and a drink at Caffe Nero :-), I picked up an issue of Sport from the floor. In it was a fantastic review of a recent ultra-marathon: 104 miles in 4 days around Mont Blanc in the French Alps. (I can't find a link to the article online, but it is called "Mont Blanc: To Hell and Back" if you want to track it down.)

Roughly 2,500 people register for the race, but not as many finish it. Only one person wins it. That person was 59-year old Marco Olmo of Italy (21 hours 31 minutes, 58 seconds). In response to how he managed to beat out younger runners, he declared:

You just have to run. There is no secret. I just run. When others get tired, I get going. [Then, in response to questions about why the younger favorites fell behind, he said:] You should never say before a race what you'll do.

Open source is a marathon, not a sprint. There are some "secrets," but the real secret is that whichever project/company executes best, with execution measured in terms of both community and sales, will win. Period. Every time.

There are no shortcuts, so don't bother looking for them. There's only hard work. Fortunately, "hard work" in open source tends to be a lot of fun, because it's a collaborative endeavor with some of the most interesting people on the planet. It's work I love to do, every single day.

Tech Culture
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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