Free software whoring

2:51 pm gnome, openwengo

Bryce Harrington has written a very thought-provoking blog on running free software communities. An extract:

The way to maximize the value gained by a FLOSS project is to grease up the skids and make it extremely easy for new users to begin contributing. Sure, 90% can’t, 9% won’t, 0.9% will but not very much, but that last 0.1% can well be worth it. [...] Don’t think of the free desktop simply as an alternative to proprietary desktops. Instead think of it as a platform for large scale open collaboration. [...] Take the rules, tools, architectures, and lessons we’ve gained in software collaboration and recast them for “data development”, and I think the free desktop’s success will be impossible to stop.

Worth a read, especially as a binome to Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian Fitzpatrick’s “Poisonous People” talk.

4 Responses

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Personally, I think he has the statistics wrong. It should be:

    9% can’t, 90% won’t

    Everyone is capable of doing something worthwhile.

  2. michael schurter Says:


    I think you’re absolutely right with your numbers. However, I think most open source projects do an extremely poor job of making it obvious that even non-programmers can contribute.

    Trying to organize and direct non-programmer contributors in a meaningful way is a difficult problem to solve.

  3. Murray Cumming Says:

    Bryce and his team get this stuff so right. Inkscape is living proof.

  4. Alan Says:

    Bryce just gets it and more importantly he knows how to make other people get it too.

    It is impressive what two or three very talented developers can accomplish but what is even more impressive is the management and community building skills Bryce brings to the table and how he can help keep a much larger group of people all enthusiastic and working little by little to improve a project so many people care about. Bryce moderates discussions, keeps things positive, and really manages to create a win win spiral. He has previously written some very intersting pieces on how difficult it can be to get others to contribute but that when he puts in the ground work he can very often attract others to finish the task, set ‘em up and knock ‘em down.