open source

Open source: She loves you, She loves you not

Working in an open source community is great, but there are also some disadvantages. From my admittedly narrow world view as a committer working in the Eclipse community as an employee of a large corporation, here are some of my observations.

Image ©emzee, licensed under Creative Commons by-nc-sa 2.0  

Things I love about working in open source

  1. The people you meet are amazing and enthusiastic.   It’s is a privilege to work with such a group of talented and thoughtful people.
  2. Instead of non-disclosure agreements, we’re free to talk about everything we work on.  Since everything is open, there are tremendous learning opportunities.  This inherent openness  means university researchers write papers about our work. Interesting!
  3. Open source software is used by our consumers in unique ways.  When Jeff Norris gave his keynote at EclipseCon 2010 on how Eclipse was used to monitor robots on Mars, it was extraordinary to think that we as a community had contributed to something that was literally out of this world.  And when he said thanks to the committers during his talk, it was a very proud moment for us all.  There are many other examples of ways in which Eclipse is used to extend our knowledge of the world(s) around us.

Image ©owlbookdreams, licensed under Creative Commons by-nc-sa 2.0  

Some things I don’t love about working in open source

  1. Many people complain but don’t contribute. They consume the code we craft, complain about how its written, but are loathe to roll their sleeves up and write a useful patch.
  2. We are constantly starved for resources, whether it be people, or new hardware.  There are too many bugs and not enough days 🙂
  3. My gender is an outlier in our community.

Ten years ago this week, I started working in at a small company called Object Technology International (OTI) as a system administrator.  I was asked by Jeff McAffer to install a server called that would act as a CVS and bugzilla server for a project that they were going to open source called Eclipse.  I said something like “Open source, that’s great.  Just like Linux”.  To which Jeff replied along the lines of  “Well, I don’t think it will be as popular as Linux, but we’ll see what happens”.  And the rest as they say, is history.

What do you love about working in open source?

4 comments on “Open source: She loves you, She loves you not

  1. The number 1 thing I love about Open Source Software is the opportunity to work with such smart people from across many different organizations.

    Where else could I learn how to design APIs from John A. discuss interaction design with Boris, talk about agile methods with Mik and understand how to assemble it all by talking to you ;).

    Open Source development is about the people involved, not the companies they (now) work for.

    As for the gender issue, I'm very happy you brought this up. We need to find better ways to both include and encourage women to get involved.


  2. Fantastic comment from one of my favourite committers 🙂

    Ian, that is so true. Open source is about working together and building something great! And learning lots of new interesting things a long the way 🙂


  3. People in an Open Source environment care about success and give recognition. Corporate development seems to be about the failure, at least that is there the addition is directed.

    Therefore for me its about sharing and working within a skilled peer group where everyone get recognition based on their individual contributions.


  4. very well said, Kim, Ian and Lars !

    I always like to meet open minded people around the world and I know, that my work as an Independent Software Architect couldn't be done the same way without all these great Open Source projects out there.

    …if there only would be more time available besides customer projects 😉


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