Cultivating Open Source in a Formerly Barren Community*
When people have been living in a proprietary world their whole lives but are suddenly introduced to open source, what happens? Do they grab freedom by the throat, or do they suffer from Stockholm Syndrome? The answer might surprise you.
A funny thing happened in the ColdFusion community recently. ColdFusion has been a proprietary product since its introduction in 1995, but within the last year, two highly capable, compelling open source alternatives have been released to varying degrees of fanfare.
Open source advocates probably imagine scenes reminiscent of the Berlin Wall coming down, with freedom triumphing over long-standing oppression. But the actual response from the CFML developer community has been far more varied, subtle, and intriguing.
This does lead to a broader question that is more universally applicable: how do you cultivate open source in a developer community, particularly one that is indifferent or downright hostile to it?
As a member of the steering committee for the Open BlueDragon project which is barely a year old, I’ve learned a lot about myself, developer communities, and open source in general. And I think many in the FLOSS community can learn from my tale of walking that fine line between politics, wars of words, turning the other cheek, education, advocacy, knowing when to speak and when to shut up, winning converts, turning friends into enemies, and holding the hands of noobz who just want to get stuff to work.
Matt Woodward is Principal IT Specialist at the Office of the Sergeant at Arms, United States Senate. He develops web applications using Python and Django, does a fair amount of Linux systems administration, and is an occasional Scrum/Kanban master. In his spare time Matt works on his 1958 wooden sailboat, and volunteers tech, voice, and audio editing services at KPTZ in lovely Port Townsend, Washington.