How cool is it that part of my job is giving away free copies of Clearspace X and Jive Forums to open source projects and developer user groups (like JUGs, etc.)? We’ve been giving away free licenses for a while, but last week I streamlined the application process with fewer questions and a simple web form to apply. Interested open source projects and user groups can get all of the details by reading my Ignite Realtime blog post on the topic.
As a community manager, I love to see that people are contributing documentation to projects as a way to help build the community. This also emphasizes a point that I have made several times during speaking engagements when people ask about motivation for contributing to communities or open source projects. My answer is always something like this, “Like any diverse groups of individuals, motivations for contributing will vary widely depending on the individual. Some people use it as a learning experience, some want fame (rockstar mentality) or other reputation building, some do it to help others, …” While community building is at the top of the list, the other motivations follow very closely behind: personal growth, mutual aid, gratitude, support, reputation, and more. Although this survey is focused on documentation, it still helps validate the idea that the motivations of individual community members are diverse.
As a community manager, I almost wish that there was a clear winner in the survey with one motivation standing out high above the others. It would make my job easier. Since no one way of encouraging people to participate within a community will work for every member, we sometimes have to get creative.
I just read an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times written by Timothy B. Lee about the evolution of Microsoft’s view on software patents:
WHAT a difference 16 years makes. Last month, the technology world was abuzz over an interview in Fortune magazine in which Bradford Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, accused users and developers of various free software products of patent infringement and demanded royalties. Indeed, in recent years, Mr. Smith has argued that patents are essential to technological breakthroughs in software.
Microsoft sang a very different tune in 1991. In a memo to his senior executives, Bill Gates wrote, “If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.” Mr. Gates worried that “some large company will patent some obvious thing” and use the patent to “take as much of our profits as they want.” (Quote from Timothy B. Lee in the NYT)
Interesting, but not entirely unexpected, change of heart.
I also read the rest of the Bill Gates’ memo in addition to what was quoted by Lee. Here’s the entire patent section of the memo:
PATENTS: If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. I feel certain that some large company will patent some obvious thing related to interface, object orientation, algorithm, application extension or other crucial technique. If we assume this company has no need of any of our patents then the have a 17-year right to take as much of our profits as they want. The solution to this is patent exchanges with large companies and patenting as much as we can. Amazingly we havn’t done any patent exchanges tha I am aware of. Amazingly we havn’t found a way to use our licensing position to avoid having our own customers cause patent problems for us. I know these aren’t simply problems but they deserve more effort by both Legal and other groups. For example we need to do a patent exchange with HP as part of our new relationship. In many application categories straighforward thinking ahead allows you to come up with patentable ideas. A recent paper from the League for Programming Freedom (available from the Legal department) explains some problems with the way patents are applied to software. (Quote from a Bill Gates Memo)
Microsoft is saying that there are “problems with the way patents are applied to software”, but the “solution to this is patent exchanges with large companies and patenting as much as we can.” In other words, Microsoft planned to patent as much as they could to avoid having other companies take advantage of them. It is interesting to see their current behavior toward the Linux and open source community in light of these 1991 views.
Our current patent system stifles innovation from smaller companies and organizations without large patent portfolios at their disposal (like many Linux and open source projects). The patent process is also expensive, thus rewarding large companies who can afford to have a staff of patent lawyers. I have not entirely decided whether software patents are a really bad idea in general (I suspect that they are). I do think that we need significant patent reform and better reviews of existing and proposed patents by industry experts who have the knowledge to determine whether or not a patent is obvious.
“The Movable Type Open Source Project was announced in conjunction with the launch of the Movable Type 4 Beta on June 5th, 2007. The MTOS Project is a community and Six Apart driven project that will produce an open souce version of the Movable Type Publishing Platform that will form the core of all other Movable Type products.”
Aside from their inability to correctly spell open source (or run spell check), they are not particularly clear about what will be in this new open source “publishing platform” vs. their commercial products. By announcing the new open source project along with the beta of their new version (not open source), it is a bit difficult to see how the open source project will fit in with their commercial products. I suspect that some of this announcement might be to put Movable Type in a better position when compared to open source rival WordPress to reduce the numbers of people migrating off of Movable Type due to licensing concerns over the past few years.
Skepticism aside, I really do like to see commercial companies embrace open source. If Movable Type embraces the open source community in a collaborative fashion, this could be a great step. Companies who work with a community to create an open source product that is awesome by itself when used without the commercial product can successfully sell commercial products with additional functionality and services needed by enterprise customers. I sincerely hope that this is the direction that Movable Type is headed.
Since we had a bunch of people coming into San Francisco for OSBC, and quite a few community managers already living in the Bay Area, I thought that a meetup of community leaders would be a fun idea for the evening prior to OSBC. Initially, I thought we’d have maybe 10 people hanging out in the hotel bar, but we ended up with 20-25 people, and The 451 generously offered their space to host my get together.
It was a nice opportunity to network with other people in similar roles while having some very interesting discussions about various aspects of community management. It got me thinking about a few things. Kingsley from Salesforce.com does an incredible amount of personal outreach including searches on MySpace and Facebook for people listing Salesforce as interests. I need to think about ways that I can encourage people to participate as I build Jive Software’s developer community around products like Clearspace. Getting a few influential, community savvy, early adopters during the initial stages of the new community can also help build momentum.
Whurley also made a really good point about how each community competes with other similar communities for developers. New communities have to be interesting, compelling, and highly relevant if you want developers to take time away from other communities to spend time interacting in your community.
I definitely need to keep doing these types of events. We can learn so much from each other when we take the time to talk and share ideas about building communities. We’ll do another one of these around OSCON in Portland!
I wanted to let everyone know that I will be at OSBC May 21st (evening) through Wed., May 23rd. Please look me up if you want to chat about community building or if you want to talk about Jive Software’s community collaboration tools (Clearspace). I can also give these tools away for free for non-commercial (open source) software development usage – talk to me for details.
It would also be great to see some familiar faces attending my panel on Wednesday from 2pm – 3pm on Community Development: Business Development for the 21st Century.
Other places you can find me this week:
a special edition of Clearspace for companies interested in creating productive and engaging online communities for their customers and partners. In the past, companies have had to “glue together” separate applications for blogs, wikis, documents and forums, resulting in disconnected people and content, and low participation rates. Clearspace X unifies these collaboration tools into one system, bringing them together through a clean, user-friendly interface and integrated incentive system.
Using Clearspace X, companies can quickly and easily create compelling public-facing communities, enabling users to share information and ideas with each other via discussions, structured wiki documents, moderated blogs and even files (like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF). Users can keep abreast of recent activity in the community through email notifications, instant message alerts and RSS feeds. (quoted from the Press Release)
We use Clearspace internally to manage our company as a community with constant interactions using discussion forums, document sharing, wiki editing of documents, internal blogging, tagging, and much more. This software is the main reason that I was able to be so productive my first week on the job. Clearspace X is similar to our Clearspace product, but tailored to the needs of an external community.
An added benefit of my role as Director of Developer Relations at Jive is that I get to give the product away for free to non-commercial developer teams. This includes open source projects, student coding projects, and other non-commercial teams of software developers. I’ll have a simple web form for requests available on the Jive Software website in the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, drop me an email if you qualify for a free license of Clearspace X: myfirstname at Jivesoftware dot com.
OK, as an organizer of the event, I am probably not the most neutral party; however, I do think the we managed to pull of a great BarCamp here in Portland. First of all, a huge thank you to Eva, David, and the rest of the crew at CubeSpace who generously gave us the run of the facility, were an amazing help, let us stay until 11pm both nights, and were extremely flexible when the registrations soared out of control the 3 days leading up to the event from our expected attendance of 125 to a final count of about 250 attendees. Also a huge thank you to Raven Zachary, co-organizer and partner in crime for the event, and the rest of the planning team: Carl Johnson, LaVonne Reimer, Audrey Eschright, Patrick Sullivan, Sioux Fleming, Kelly Mackin, and Rashid Ahmed. Each person on this list was a tremendous help. Todd was also an enormous help: staying up late to help draw the grid; bringing me bubble tea; getting last minute materials cut at Kinkos, putting up with my crap as my grouchiness escalated during final preparations, and much more.
During the initial planning of BarCamp Portland, we thought that would be really cool if we could get maybe 75-100 people at Portland’s first BarCamp. As people began signing up, we thought that 125 was a pretty realistic number (this is what we budgeted for). A week or two before the event, we had 125-150 people signed up, and we felt really good about that number. As we moved closer to the Friday start of BarCamp, the numbers escalated rapidly to 274. Based on signups at the registration desks, we think we had about 250 people physically present at the event. Our sponsors were very generous in making last minute increases in sponsorship funding to provide additional food for the extra people.
A few neat things about BarCamp Portland:
- Our volunteer planning committee had more women than men, which we think helped us to have a better gender balance in overall attendance than most technology events.
- We think we were the first BarCamp ever to have free Bubble tea.
- Sessions varied widely including: theories about the TV show Lost, Open Source Business models, songwriting for geeks, community collaboration, MythTV, OpenID, WiFi disaster recovery and much more.
- We had a Nintendo Wii party, which included a boxing showdown between Chris Messina, one of the founders of the BarCamp Concept, and me (I kicked his ass) 🙂
- We had a Bucket of Voodoo Donuts.
- We had several OLPCs there for people to play with, and they even got some use from kids at the event.
- Ward Cunninham brought his flag waving robot.
- I did a session on collaboration in communities, which seemed to go really well.
- People started to get really creative about using the space at the event.
- We had knitting.
- We played a bunch of werewolf games thanks to Victor and others from the Portland Werewolf group (we even have our own cards for it!) I am an innocent villager.
- Notes from sessions are still emerging as people recover enough to blog, but I’ve found a few notes from Donnie Berkholz, and in the PDXBarCamp channel on Pibb (the official event back channel)
- And much, much, more.
Thanks to everyone who attended. A BarCamp event is only successful if the people who attend make it successful. We had an amazing, geeky, smart, and fun crowd leading to an amazing, geeky, smart, and fun event!
Part of my new gig at Jive is to be an evangelist for our products. This means that I need to ramp up my speaking schedule at conferences. Historically, my typical method of getting speaking engagements is to reactively respond to requests from friends, industry acquaintances, and other random people who invite me to speak on panels. Now, I want to start taking a more proactive approach by submitting sessions to conferences focused on developers, web 2.0, collaboration, community, and open source.
Any suggestions for cool conferences that are currently accepting submissions?
Stuart Cohen, formally CEO of OSDL who left during the merger with FSG, has started his own for-profit company focused on applications built on an open stack using open source methodologies. Cohen wanted OSDL to focus on more than just Linux, including open source applications, but the OSDL and FSG were really focused on Linux. Forming the Collaborative Software Initiative was a way for Cohen to lead a company focused on open source applications. This initiative is funded by OVP Venture Partners and has a strong advisory council including industry luminaries like Brian Behlendorf, Dan Frye, and Eben Moglen. They are also partnered with IBM, HP, and Novell.
According to eWeek, the company will
“focus on building non-competitive, essential software for vertical industries in a collaborative environment that helps companies solve shared IT problems. The business model for Collaborative Software Initiative is simple: Develop and support essential code that does not exist today and that meets the needs of competitors in vertical industries, such as financial services, at a significantly lower cost than if the companies were to develop such code internally or outsource it—and then support it.”(Quote from eWeek)
This is an interesting model, but the details are still unclear:
“CSI is taking a cue from open source methodology, but it’s not a “pure open source play,” says Cohen. Right now, CSI doesn’t have any specific licenses in mind to offer software under, though Cohen does say that they plan to open source the projects when they are mature, and indicated that they would prefer Open Source Initiative-approved licenses.” (Quote from Linux.com)
It will be interesting to see how well this works. Companies may not need a company like the Collaborative Software Initiative to help facilitate collaboration across industries. I also think that it will be difficult to provide support for a diverse range of vertical industry solutions, so I am skeptical about how well this will scale. I will also be curious to see whether communities will form around these efforts that are similar to the communities for other open source applications.
Despite my skepticism about the details and implementation, I really like the focus on open source applications. I do think that over time more applications will be built using open source methodologies building on the years of success that open source operating systems, infrastructure and tools have garnered. I hope that this initiative will lead to more successful open source applications.