If Knowledge is Power …

If knowledge is power, then sharing your knowledge empowers others.

"Illumination"

Illumination by Mr. Skinner

In the open-source world, each of us endeavours to strengthen the communities to which we contribute. There is no better way to strengthen a community than empowering your fellow contributors with your knowledge.

There are no excuses in the open-source world for not sharing your knowledge. Our tools and processes are designed to make this happen naturally.

Having discussions on a mailing list allows other contributors to benefit from the information being shared in the discussion. It also ensures that information is archived for future contributors.

Detailed commit messages ensures that current and future developers can fully understand your reasoning for a given change. Pushing your in-progress work to a public branch allows others to take the work on and finish it, even if you don’t have time.

Thinking out loud in bugzilla means that even if your work is not complete on the problem, others can run with your initial ideas or analysis.

Using a public wiki for note taking and giving others access to your jumbled up thoughts, ideas, hints and tips is a great way to open your brain to the world.

A nice side-effect of all this is that if your knowledge is shared openly and archived, you don’t need to have such a good memory! :-)

RISE UP & SHARE

RISE UP & SHARE by alyceobvious

In other contexts, it might be good practice to jealously guard your knowledge. If you’re the guy that everyone has to come to because you’re the one guy who knows how to do something, that’s good for your job security, right? Surely, if you share your knowledge freely, that means anyone can do your job?

This is the exact opposite to what should motivate you as you contribute to a community. You absolutely do want to make it possible for others to come along and kick your ass. If somebody appears out of nowhere and starts doing your job better than you could ever have done, then that is an absolutely awesome outcome!

7 Responses to “If Knowledge is Power …”

  1. Mathias Teugels says:

    With all do respect, but I disagree with your conclusion: The drive to share your knowledge shouldn’t be so that someone else can start competing with you!

    The drive should be more in the sense of someone else might come and help you for a change.

    Also, consider the fact why you’re the one they’re asking questions to. Not just because you know how to fix things, or you have a bit more information than they do. It’s because you’re interested, have done research, spent time and passion doing what gave you the extra knowledge compared to “competitors” That attitude will always win no matter how hard said competitors try keeping up :)

  2. markmc says:

    Mathias, thanks for your comment

    I totally agree with you. I guess I was trying to say that, in an open-source context, a new contributor is a collaborator rather than a competitor. So, in another context you might be worried about sharing your knowledge because it allows others to take power from you, but in an open-source project you should be delighted if a new contributor uses your knowledge to drive the project forward.

  3. markmc says:

    Thanks Máirín! :)

  4. RandomRay says:

    “If somebody appears out of nowhere and starts doing your job better than you could ever have done, then that is an absolutely awesome outcome!”

    Only if it encourages you to work harder!

  5. XHolyPuffX says:

    I agree with the conclusion. Even though someone else might be getting credit, the point of having technical knowledge is to benefit others, not just yourself. What’s the point in discovering something if only you and a select few get to use it?

    Having someone else come along and make something better using your knowledge as a base means that you’ve done the job of a developer. You’ve developed something big for others to enjoy, even if the person who did it better used your idea.

  6. ram says:

    This is more like socialism. Socialism, when carried out in the right sense with the right attitude (selfless), the country can thrive. If open source has to come up, people should become selfless contributors an should not care about wealth, fame, power and superiority – which a majority of humans vie for.
    Like socialism, open source would never die – rather would be practiced by a minor section of people.