Open source is wonderfully unique. I encourage you to stop and consider the relationships which exist in an open source environment. I encourage you to quit focusing on enterprise and big business and all the hot buzz words. This 0pen source is different.

Catch Phrases Dropped

The idea that open source is different is nothing new.  Even major corporations see the value of open source. Enterprise open source dominates the media channels. They may not correctly implement open source, in fact they may even fail, here’s 5 reasons they might. But that’s not the point. The point here is different. Rather than focusing on failure points I’d like to take a moment and discard the hot topics and the current media frenzy over certain marketing terms. Let’s talk for a second about community.

Community Focused

We all have seen the value in open source and there’s no need to mindlessly rehash the same information. So let’s dig in immediately into the community of open source. What makes it special? It’s the people (you should still read the above mentioned article). But this open source community. These volunteers, the relationships that exist between them are different than you’ll find elsewhere.

Depending on the type of community, the industry, the location and numerous other factors these relationships are unique. I’ve often said it at events, true open source communities are much more than an average relationship. Relationships are tricky. And each community has different ones.

Cultures Explored

These relationship dynamics should be carefully considered. Open source communities span continents and crosses all borders. As a result a community has many, many cultures represented and each culture has different items which may seem innocuous to some and highly offensive to others. Don’t understand what I mean? Here’s just a few examples:

  • Never shake hands across a threshold (Russia)
  • Don’t use the ‘peace’ sign (UK)
  • Don’t use the ‘ok’ sign (Brazil)
  • Not shaking everyone’s hand (Austria)
  • Never give a short handshake (Fiji)

That’s just a very quick list of five. There are many more. These cultures play an incredibly important role in the relationships within a community. You’re incredibly lucky if you have the opportunity to be in one of these global, barrier-free communities. But you should be considerate of the cultures you will meet.

Consider Others

In open source communities this means you must be considerate. And now we’re getting into the true meaning of community. These relationships require a level of consideration and thoughtfulness. Realize we’re not dealing with corporations and enterprise. The key is not ‘big business’ or how we can accomplish multi-national business conglomerates. What matters are the people. Even those large businesses which seem faceless and nameless are still made up of people. Individuals with ideas, emotions, and feelings of their own. Individuals with personalities and with cultural sensitivities.

Do you see how it all comes together?

Open source is built on the simple thing, the one thing, that every media outlet and every big business is so frantically seeking to label. Success in an enterprise environment. But this success comes naturally to open source. Because open source communities live and breathe on the relationships between people.

Continue to Excel

So open source communities clearly have the upper hand and regardless of what the marketers want to focus on the real point is the person to person relationships. How does a good open source community continue to excel in establishing and nurturing these relationships? Here are a few ways you can be sure to be considerate in your relationships with others.

  1. Listen more than you talk
    It’s easy for everyone to want to talk. Talking is fun (for most people). And in fact most people would prefer to tell everyone what they are doing. It takes effort to listen instead. Don’t just listen but truly hear what’s said. Empathize where you can. Comfort when necessary, and share in their excitement. Of course you should always be genuine but you’ll demonstrate their importance by truly being a listener.
  2. Be conscientious of culture
    We discussed this just a bit earlier the differences in culture are important to be aware of. Take time to learn about the nuances and differences in culture. Not only does it help you when listening and relating, but it also demonstrates to the other person that you value them and respect them.
  3. Be slow to react
    As you listen and as you learn about others and their cultures you must do more than just understand and know something in your head. You have to apply it to your life. This might be the most difficult. Human nature is to react personally when feeling affronted or ‘wronged’, but if you properly think through what you know you may react differently. If you’re slow to react and take a moment to think first, you may come to a different conclusion and handle a situation differently.

I conclude with a reiteration. Open source is a very personal thing. It’s not enterprise, it’s person-to-person. These personal relationships require thoughtfulness, consideration, and effort. If an open source community is going to thrive than the person-to-person relationships must be nurtured and cared for. If you are not already actively engaging in the simple three steps above then now is the perfect time to start!