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Community beyond open source: Mac vs. Windows

While community is a central topic in open source, open source by no means has a lock on community, as Apple and Microsoft can attest.

I came across an interesting question on TechFlash today: is the Mac or Windows community stronger?

This topic is particularly interesting to me as in the open-source world we fetish "community" like deity, but also somehow believe that open source has a lock on community. The very fact that TechFlash can ask the question with a straight face suggests that open source may not be the sole repository of communal thinking.

Indeed, one could argue that Microsoft owes much of its success to a strong emphasis on its partner and user communities over the past few decades. Apple owes much of its success to its evangelical user community (guilty, as charged).

From open source, both Microsoft and Apple can learn the importance of transparency, open APIs, and bottoms-up developer contributions.

Still, though open source has much to teach the rest of the industry, I suspect we also have much to learn. From Microsoft, we need to learn how to enable our communities with developer tools, documentation, and such. From Apple, we need to learn how to inspire our communities to seek technical excellence with an eye for aesthetics.

They've got a lot to learn, in other words, but so do we.