Gift the "open source' spirit to your next collaboration

Open Source is both a way of working together and a state-of-mind.  Typically associated with an approach to software development, it’s also a philosophy, and something I think aligns with a spirit of generosity and authentic collaboration, even if your project is not focused on software development.

The Open Source spirit

Brian Behlendorf is a true pioneer of the open source, non-proprietary, approach.  He is founder of Collabnet, building on his work as co-founder and key contributor to the Apache Web Server Project, an open source project that developed the Apache server, the most popular web server on the Internet.  In this illuminating 2006 interview (the first 5 minutes are all you need to watch), Behlendorf provides insight into open source collaboration.

Can’t see the video?  Click here.

What really clicked with me in this interview, about the open source collaboration approach, were these 3 elements:

  1. Sincere respect that each participant, in the Apache collaborative, had for each other’s ideas; recognition that passion and motivation are finite resources, and need to be cherished
  2. Adoption of a modular, interface design approach that allowed each participant the possibility to create solutions independent of the collaborative, and if deemed worthy by the collaborative as a whole, incorporated into the joint, collaborative solution (those of you at ease in computer speak will of course connect with this API, Application Programming Interface, approach)
  3. Adoption of the right to fork rule; a rule that allows each participant in the collaborative to divert, go their own way (i.e., leave the collaborative), and leave with a complete copy of the product design in their hands!

Successful open source projects are about people working together on common platforms to solve common problems.  Information is shared openly and freely.  Open source projects believe in the golden rule, and how easy it can be to work together when people have common goals and share common values.

Applying an open source spirit to your project

How can you apply the (above) open source software approach in your own project worlds?  How can you structure your project such that:

  • Collaborative relationships reign
  • Participant stakeholders can contribute to the overall project goals, in their own unique way
  • Participants feel safe to pursue their own path, without censure, if interests diverge

What others are thinking and doing

A couple of recent books I read weave open source collaboration into the bigger picture.

In FREE: The Future of a Radical Price, Chris Anderson talks about Brazil, where the prime directive of the federal Institute for Information Technology is to promote the adoption of free (open source) software throughout the government and ultimately the nation.  Ministries and schools are migrating their offices to open source systems. And within the government’s digital inclusion programs aimed at bringing computer to the 80 percent of Brazilians who have none Linux (an open source solution) is the rule.  FREE is essential reading if you want to understand how Google can provide applications for free, the shift taking place from scarcity to abundance thinking…

In science fiction writer Cory Doctorow’s Makers, a future America is presented; a paradox of decaying society alongside the boundless optimism of an open source/hacker culture all leading to a fascinating re-imagining of the near future.

Some important initiatives would never happen without an open source approach, as I summarize in this post about my Philippines work experience in 2008/09, 27 ways Filipinos create successful, collaborative e-Governance projects

What’s in your Open Source future?

Feeling creative, innovative?  What opportunity do you see as ripe for incorporating the collaborative elements of an open source approach?

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  1. […] from: Gift the “Open Source” spirit to your next collaboration This entry was posted on Sunday, March 7th, 2010 at 11:20 pm and is filed under Linux, News, […]

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