Sometimes it’s hard to work with free software projects.
You don’t know who is “in charge”, decision making can seem arbitrary, your ideas and proposals are greeted with skepticism and aggression, and if you build on the software and don’t engage the community, the cost of maintenance quickly increases. Efforts to engage end in frustration, as questions go unanswered, and patches go unreviewed, or get rejected with little explanation.
Some of the difficulty is innate in working with a community, and everyone who starts doing free software hits the same issues. It’s a different way of doing things, and there’s a learning curve.
But some of the problems people encounter are related to the make-up of the community – its culture and governance model. Some projects are plagued with poisonous people they can’t get rid of, others lack any quality or release process, making it hard to deliver quality products based on them.
This presentation will help professional developers and product managers over the hump, and chart out the learning curve you will go through engaging a free software community.
We will also present a set of metrics which you can use to evaluate the health and commercial viability of working with a given project, with some concrete examples of communities.
For free software developers, these metrics can be used to identify barriers to participation in their project, and help them address the issues involved to increase the vibrancy of their community.
Dave Neary is the founder of Neary Consulting, specialising in managing community relations and free software strategy.
As a member of the GNOME community, he has been involved in all aspects the organisation of GUADEC since 2005, including a spell as conference chair. He has served three terms as a member of the board of directors of the GNOME Foundation (2005 – 07), and was chairman of the board in 2006, and treasurer in 2007,where he oversaw massive growth in the GNOME advisory board. He created and edited the first annual report of the GNOME Foundation.
Dave worked for the French company Wengo as community development manager with the OpenWengo project (now called QuteCom), and as head of the OpenWengo business unit, developing a business model and client base for the project. He refocused development efforts on the Linux platform, and saw a substantial increase in community contributions after initiatives such as the OpenWengo developers summit and the Free and Open source Telephony Summit, both of which he organised.
Dave has participated in free software communities since discovering Linux in 1996. He was a developer and release manager of the GIMP from 1999 until 2006. He organised the 2005 GIMP Developers Conference as part of GUADEC in Kristiansand, and in 2006 founded the Libre Graphics Meeting, a conference which brings together developers and users of free software graphics software ranging from infrastructure like LittleCMS and cairo to applications including the GIMP, Inkscape, Blender and Scribus.
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