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Old 01-28-2009, 05:32 PM   #1
firefly2442
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The Creation of Open Source Communities


I'm taking a Journalism and Mass Communication class about technology and communication. We will each be writing a paper on a topic of our choosing. For my research paper topic, I would love to hear ideas, questions, suggestions, etc.

After following the development of Linux and Open Source Software (OSS) for some time, I think that it is gaining in popularity among not only technically savvy individuals but also those who are fed up with issues surrounding Windows and other operating systems. The underlying philosophy of OSS encourages cooperation and sharing which have helped the community thrive on the Internet. I would like to examine how these communities have emerged as well as how they are maintained.

The fact that Linux is a full operating system collaboratively created by thousands of people around the world is a staggering accomplishment in my opinion. There is no rigid structure like traditional businesses where you have a hierarchy of people working who all report to one person. Some would say that Linus Torvalds who started Linux is the leader but as he jokingly puts it, he considers himself a, “benevolent dictator”. Linux as well as the distributions that are created around it consistently release full operating systems through the coordination of volunteers that exist all over the world. Deciding on what to do is usually a democratic process. While language differences may hinder this, the core freedoms of the principles of OSS transcend languages and national borders. Creating these communities involves not only recruiting people but also trusting them to help out and contribute. This can be a variety of things from programming, writing documentation, or even helping new users with the software. Some projects have created large vibrant communities but their processes for putting all the pieces together into a polished piece of software are lacking, thus the project suffers. Others have created an excellent polished end product but they lack the community behind it, so nobody uses the software. The key balance is creating the community as well as crafting a policy for democratically accepting the best code or at least making some sort of decision as to what the final resulting product will look like.

I would like to answer some or all of the following questions regarding the creation and maintenance of open source communities:

1) What kind of tools are used online for collaboration and maintenance of large projects? What tools are missing?

2) Given the global nature of the communities, is language an issue for communication? If English is the predominant language used, does this create a segregation divide between those that speak English versus those that do not? As OSS increases in popularity, how important will emerging areas of the world such as developing nations be in the development and use of OSS?

3) How can a project create and retain a vibrant community? How do projects reach “critical mass” in terms of the amount of people needed? What kind of people are attracted to OSS?

4) What is the future of OSS? Will it always just be a niche area of tinkers or will it truly be able to compete with proprietary commercial operating systems? If it does gain in popularity, will this dramatically change the structure of the community as a whole?

5) Are there advances in the future of the Internet that will help facilitate OSS? Hinder it?

Thank you for your time.
 
Old 01-28-2009, 06:44 PM   #2
unSpawn
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If you never reciprocated (in the true GNU/Linux OSS sense), if you never took part in or contributed intensively to a Berlioz/Savannah/Sourceforge project then how on earth are you going to understand what such communities are about?.. Please tell me what you have done and how things look from your perspective first.
 
Old 01-28-2009, 07:41 PM   #3
sundialsvcs
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If you imagine that "this is a reaction to Microsoft Windows," then you have truly embarked upon "the eye-opening experience" that is the substance of your research project. Please be prepared for the roller-coaster ride of your life.

Consider... for a moment... either "the iPhone" or "the Macintosh."

Or, how about "the Android phone?" Or maybe you're drooling over the latest offering from Blackberry?

Whatever.

Question number one: "What do any of these systems have to do with Microsoft Windows?"

Answer: nothing.

Question number two: "What do all of these systems have to do with 'open source?'"

Answer: everything.

Q. E. D.

"Open source" is not a "reaction to" the proprietary software development model. Rather, it is a response to a realization of that "proprietary software development" cannot take us where the business world needs to go.

"Software," in other words, is "too gosh-darned expensive" to be anything else but "free." (sic)

If all of us are sitting there, doing exactly the same thing in slightly different ways and then posting a bunch of "Keep Out!" signs around whatever-it-is that we have just redundantly done, then the bottom-line is that "we have not, collectively, advanced."

In short: hardware-development will never make the slightest forward step if we all have to persuade a group of talented programmers in Redmond, Washington (or anywhere else...) to go along with what we have in mind.

Instead, "a rising tide lifts all boats." If we choose, voluntarily, to cooperatively develop the software that we all need, and to wipe-away the "Keep Out!" signs wherever they might be found, only then can we advance the oh-so labor-intensive craft of software development.

Only then do we have the slightest ghost of a chance to deliver what "our tech-besotted offspring" (and "our tech-besotted selves") want so much to be able to take for granted.
 
Old 01-28-2009, 07:52 PM   #4
firefly2442
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Well, I personally have created and contribute code to a few small open source projects. I've been using and following Linux for a number of years. I listen to a few Linux podcasts. I have a BA in Computer Science and Psychology. I would consider myself a moderately skilled Linux user (certainly not a power user though). Therefore, I have reciprocated and given back to the community in various ways. Debian is one community that I would like to look at because they have a social contract.

http://debian.org/social_contract

The types of people that are interested in contributing to Debian may be different than those that contribute to Ubuntu for example. It's possible that Debian users value the freedoms involved in the software more than other distributions.

Besides just my own opinion on the issue, I think it would be helpful to go on IRC or places where these communities or sub-communities hang out and ask them how they manage the project. Thoughts?
 
Old 01-28-2009, 07:55 PM   #5
firefly2442
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sundialsvcs View Post

"Open source" is not a "reaction to" the proprietary software development model. Rather, it is a response to a realization of that "proprietary software development" cannot take us where the business world needs to go.
So in your opinion, you see this more of the evolution of software development models and a new paradigm shift for development as opposed to the "freedom" or "open values" associated with OSS?
 
Old 01-29-2009, 06:50 AM   #6
Su-Shee
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Actually, there are literally TONS of papers and studies about this subject - this is really just another "do my homework" posting.

2 minutes of Google should offer you thousands of pages to read about the sociology of open source projects - including topics you didn't ask for like gender issues or financing open source projects.

All of your questions have already been asked and answered - in depth.

First Monday is a good starting point: http://firstmonday.org/
 
Old 01-29-2009, 02:16 PM   #7
firefly2442
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Su-Shee View Post
Actually, there are literally TONS of papers and studies about this subject - this is really just another "do my homework" posting.

2 minutes of Google should offer you thousands of pages to read about the sociology of open source projects - including topics you didn't ask for like gender issues or financing open source projects.

All of your questions have already been asked and answered - in depth.

First Monday is a good starting point: http://firstmonday.org/
Thanks for the URL, that looks like a really good place to find articles and opinions on a variety of matters.
 
  


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