Making Open Work
May 8–9, 2017: Training & Tutorials
May 10–11, 2017: Conference
Austin, TX

Selling open source, keeping your soul

Jessica Rose (
2:35pm3:15pm Thursday, May 11, 2017
Level: Non-technical
Average rating: ***..
(3.00, 1 rating)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Developers, managers, and C-level executives

Prerequisite knowledge

  • An understanding of open source principles, as well as the business ecosystem open source exists in and the business needs attached to projects or companies

What you'll learn

  • Understand the value of open source true believers in a business context and the need to balance business needs with idealism with compromises on both sides
  • Learn techniques for using conflicts that arise between these forces to drive better products and communities and a better open source ecosystem


For open source true believers, meeting business needs in our competitive industry can often feel like being asked to compromise on our core values. To keep our passion for open source alive in real-world environments, we’ll need to work to create space in our hearts for business needs. To keep the passion in our industry, we need to work to create space in our businesses for the voices of the true believers.

To engage with our inner idealists and our earnest peers, we must first give them an authentic, enduring voice in our business dealings. We entered into the business of open source because we believed strongly that this collaborative model of building software was where we wanted to work from to change the world. We must now ask ourselves and ask each other, Why are we here? What are we building? Who are we building this for, and with?”—and let the answers to these questions drive our work.

For our projects and communities to survive, they need to work well with business. We also have to recognize the business needs that drive our teams’, companies’, and projects’ ability to survive and grow within our industry. In naming these needs and working to meet them honestly, openly, and without disdain, we can more fully work to integrate these demands into a framework that includes the better angels of our open source motivations.

The two perspectives of business and open source ideals needn’t be continually opposed to each other, though conflict will arise between them. Jessica Rose calls on the community to set advocates within each of our projects and teams to better facilitate a balance between these essential viewpoints. Through creating low-risk, democratic environments where we’re asked to advocate in turn for our business needs and open source goals, we can create a setting where this conflict becomes a productive, driving force, demanding excellence across both fronts. To be successful, this form of collaborative conflict demands a diverse range of perspectives, an equal voice in exchanges, and a shared commitment to mutual respect.

Jessica explains that through an honest navigation of our business needs, the affirmation of the better angels of our open source nature, and building environments driven by collaborative conflict, we can indeed have it all. We can work toward creating a healthy and viable business driven by our authentic passion for open source, communities, and collaboration.

Photo of Jessica Rose

Jessica Rose

Jessica Rose is a self-taught technologist passionate about driving more equal access to technical education, our technical communities, and open source. Jessica leads developer advocacy at, founded the Open Code educational event series, and cofounded Trans*Code. She’s always excited to hear about the projects and ideas you’re passionate about, so find her and tell her what you’re working on.