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Community War Stories : Squaring the Circle between Business and Community

Lars Kurth (Citrix Systems Ltd)
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Open Source has won! Today, most open source developers or users work for commercial entities and more and more companies use open source. Yet open source communities are still about the people, not the companies employing them. This leads to never-ending tension on the boundary between business and community, which only the most successful community leaders manage well.

In this talk we will look at some of the basic dynamics playing out in open source communities and introduce some mental models explaining them. We will look at the Open Source Flywheel (inspired by Walton’s Productivity Loop and the Bezos Flywheel) and the Open Source Community Funnel (inspired by Sales Funnels) to explain them.

We will then explore the tension between community and businesses in some more detail, in the form of war stories (or case studies). These stories will cover real incidents where business interests and communities were in conflict: some were resolved amicably; others led to significant problems within the community. The stories will span the author’s experience with Eclipse, the Symbian Foundation, Linaro, the Xen Project and other open source projects.

We will investigate the underlying issues for each story, draw lessons and link explain them to the mental models we introduced earlier.

We will establish best practices for businesses, their employees and community managers to defuse tensions on the boundary of business and community. Mastering the skills to square the circle between business and community is a never-ending challenge. Being able to do so consistently will give your open source project an edge in the competitive world of open source and help secure the long-term future of your project.

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Lars Kurth

Citrix Systems Ltd

Lars Kurth had his first contact with the open source community in 1997 when he worked on various parts of the ARM toolchain. This experience led him to become a passionate open source enthusiast who has worked with and for many open source communities over the past 15 years. Lars has contributed to projects including GCC, Eclipse, Symbian, and Xen and became the open source community manager for in 2011. Lars is an IT generalist with a wide range of skills in software development and methodology. He is experienced in building and leading engineering teams and communities, as well as constructing marketing, product management, and change programs impacting thousands of users. Lars has 17 years of industry experience in the infrastructure, tools, and mobile sectors for companies including ARM, Citrix, Nokia, and the Symbian Foundation.