February 4, 2015
December 16, 2014
If you think about the title of this post I wonder what might be the first thing that comes to your mind. Perhaps you think of an antonym – closed, or maybe you think of an action taken as with a door or window. Perhaps you think of someone being an open book and what that entails. There are any number of proper definitions of the word open. If you are anything like me (or you live in the same circle as me) then you’ll more than likely think of the same definition as I do – open as in open source. But let’s look at a few of the alternate definitions and then seek to apply them to open source.
1. Open as opposed to closed.
When we look at open in terms of being the opposite of closed there are several things to consider. First, something that’s closed is usually hidden, restricted, or kept back. Being open therefore is the opposite of each of those, easily found, unrestricted, put in front. This openness is easy to recognize and can quickly be spotted by anyone looking. Open is a concept familiar to all, regardless of language or translation.
2. Open as a door or window, a verb.
The verb form is the second way of looking at the word open. Open is an active verb which demonstrates a proactive approach to something. When you open something you give it the properties listed in the first definition above. You take something previously closed and you make it open.
3. Open as in a book.
This definition for open comes from a popular saying, for example, he read me like an open book. This use of the word open implies a sense of transparency and easy to understand nature. Similar to the first definition above when something is open the result is transparent. Easy to read, easy to follow, and most of all open. Open to be read by everyone. This final definition lends itself well to the definition of open source I personally enjoy the most.
4. Open as in open source.
Open as in open source. This is the definition of open that I tend to use on almost a daily basis. Open source often refers to the concept of source code being available, transparent, and free to review. This open source code is open (as in the opposite of closed), it’s an action that is done proactively by the communities which surround these projects and it’s open as in transparent (like a book). There’s something exciting about open source and the thrill of contributing to something amazing.
Each of these are valid definitions and each carry a unique meaning. I trust this post has encouraged you to think more closely about the true meaning of open source and how each of these definitions can legitimately be applied to the concept of open source as we know it.
We live in a world being eaten by software. Let’s make sure that software is open; in every sense of the word.
November 24, 2014
There’s a very popular topic making its rounds lately in open source communities. The concept of burnout. This idea can be roughly summed up as an individual spending too much of their time contributing voluntarily to a community and quickly becoming tired and leaving the community. Unfortunately this does happen and is a very real problem in volunteer-driven communities. If you’re interested in reading more on this then I suggest this post which covers the topic very well. But I want to write briefly on a different aspect. I want to talk about an aspect which might not be as quickly considered and times when there may be a mislabelling of a situation. Let’s talk about what is not burnout.
Burnout is not a catch-all excuse
Unfortunately, burnout is not always the reason for a volunteer stepping away or shifting focus. Sometimes people tend to use burnout as an excuse for more serious problem. What I mean when I say more serious problem? Simple, sometimes when people are leaving a community they are leaving for other reasons besides being burnt out. Maybe they have an interest in something different, maybe they want to focus their time more efficiently, or maybe there is a deeper problem within the community which is keeping them contributing as they would like to. All of these are examples where burnout is not really the cause for change but something else, something deeper, is the real problem and should be uncovered.
The danger of mislabeling burnout
The community suffers when someone mislabels an individual leaving a community as the result of burnout if in fact it’s another reason. By failing to address the real reason for individuals leaving the community there is no opportunity for change. Without change the problem will repeat itself with new volunteers for new contributors. The vicious cycle continues. This is obviously extremely dangerous to a community. If we are unable to correctly diagnose problems within the community and instead resort to mislabeling them as burnout, or the fault of the volunteer rather than the community, the health of the community will be affected.
People make up a community and if those people aren’t perfect, neither are their communities.
If we want to ensure that we are not mislabeling problems within the community then we need to be very careful when we use the term burnout. So how do we prevent mislabeling a problem? By listening. If we listen to those individuals leaving a community, if we ask them for the reasons why they’re leaving, and if we hear their answer then we can ensure that we label the problem correctly. It may very well be that an individual is leaving because they are truly burnt out. If that is the case then following some of the advice given in the other blog posts such as the one I mentioned earlier is very applicable. However if we listen to their replies and we can see they are not burnt out but instead there are other issues, problems, or concerns that these need to be addressed and labeled correctly.
When a community is strong enough to diagnose problems, to label them correctly, and take action as a result that community will thrive. The community which listens will thrive. Yes, burnout is a very real issue particularly in open source or volunteer communities. But let’s be careful not to label every individual which leaves the community as being burnt out.
August 20, 2014
On Community Excitement
Open source is a challenging and very interesting space to build a community. There’s a certain amount of excitement derived from being involved in something open source and available to all. There’s also a certain amount of confusion and if you’re not careful there’s a certain amount of conflict. But community excitement is different. It’s catching. It’s fun.
Conflict within a community is not always avoidable and being able to deal appropriately with conflict when it occurs shows the true strength of your community. I’ve written before on effective conflict resolution within a community so I’m not going to repeat any of that advice here but I would rather like to talk about the excitement of working in open source and some of the benefits you’ll experience from life in the engine room of an open source community.
You Learn (a lot)
You’ll learn so many things by being involved in an open source community. You’ll learn more about how to work with other people and share your toys, you’ll learn how to listen to others, you’ll learn how to be successful, you’ll learn more about yourself. And these are just a few ways in which open source communities will help you learn. In case you question the value of continuous learning I’ll drop a quote from a rather famous individual all will recognize and most will respect.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
There is (or should be) no doubt about the power of learning and the benefits of continuing to grow in your learning throughout your life.
You Meet People (a lot)
Now I know you could say the “a lot” part of this section is debatable depending on the size of the community but think about a community of one (yourself) now every other community means you’ll meet a lot of people. And when you meet a lot of people you will find those things you have in common with them. Meeting people, sharing common interests, common likes is yet another benefit from being involved in open source. This in itself is a learning experience as you cross cultural and geographical borders in a common setting.
You have to be able to meet people and greet people. For some this involves coming out of your comfort zone. For others this is second nature, you enjoy the attention and being in the middle of the conversation. Either way you must be friendly, smile and be personable.
“We’re all working together; that’s the secret.”
– Sam Walton
You See Change (a lot)
So my last quick point on exciting things you see by getting in deep within the engine room of a community and become involved with the inner workings and day-to-day aspects of an open source community is related to change. I think a lot hinges on this particular point. If you are deep in a community where there is an aversion to change of any kind and things fail to grow you’ll see a loss of excitement, interest, and motivation. You’ll find stagnation and eventual death. To be honest…that’s not exciting.
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
– Winston Churchill
But if you’re in a thriving community you’ll find all types of excitement and growth. There’s little changes happening all the time. Nothing is perfect and there are always ways in which things can be improved and made better. These micro-changes are what keep the excitement level up and make the entire community long-term successful.
Sometimes the changes aren’t micro-changes but macro-changes. Large and sweeping change, sometimes even a pivot is what becomes necessary to make the community a long-term success.
Working in a community is fun. Working deep in the engine room of a community is an incredible rush. It’s a different level of excitement all together. If you have not yet experienced the deeply satisfying experience of working within a community don’t wait. Start today. Find an open source community which you enjoy and dive deep. You’ll find (a lot) of exciting new things and ways in which you will enrich your life.
August 19, 2014
Open Source Project Update (Top Secret)
For those of you who have been following my blog and have seen my previous post about what I’m so ecstatically working on then this post will serve as a bit of a status update. If you are curious about what I’m talking about then I suggest reading back on my previous post. I admit I was slightly abstruse in my previous post. I’ll clear some of that up with this article…I hope. Here’s more information on this revolutionary new open source project (soon to be released).
What’s in a name?
I guess the first thing which would be important to share is the name of this super top-secret project. I’m excited to announce this new open source software will hereby and forever more be known as Mautic. Now before you go trying to figure out what it means let me save you the time and let you know you won’t find much. We developed a name which held the meaning, the essence, of what we were creating and are thrilled with the result. So what is the essence of the platform being created? That’s the next exciting question I get to answer.
What is Mautic?
Mautic is a free and open source marketing automation platform. That’s right, completely free and completely open source. No strings attached. After seeing this completely closed-source dominated market space and how severely it impacts the lives and successes of hundreds of thousands (millions even?) of small and medium-sized businesses which simply cannot afford the extravagant monthly costs of existing software-as-a-service only solutions we knew there was a problem. Mautic is set to fix that problem. We’re disrupting the space and introducing the power of open source to marketing automation in much the same way the CMS landscape was forever changed by the release of three powerhouse open source systems (Drupal, Joomla, WordPress) back in 2004-2005.
We are excited to be the catalyst for this movement and help grow the community around this project. The simple bottom-line answer – Mautic is a game changer.
The First Big Decision
One of the very first big decisions we needed to make was in regards to our logo which would represent us. We went through a very, very detailed process which if others are interested in the psychology behind the final selection or are interested in hearing more about the process involved with defining a brand image then definitely let me know. I’d love to share (as I said this platform truly is something the community can rally around) but I certainly don’t want to waste anyone’s time with “the details”. Needless to say a lot of time, effort and community feedback was involved in this process of selecting the most appropriate logo. And so I’m excited to announce and share the version which will represent the Mautic brand.
Without any further ado. Here is the shiny new logo for Mautic the free and open source marketing automation platform.
August 18, 2014
Why Do You Use Open Source?
I’ve been thinking about this post for a little while. I wanted to make sure I gave the right message and asked the right questions. I think I have a few key questions now that I’d like to present. There are of course other reasons, everyone is unique and we can certainly have vastly different reasons for contributing (or using) open source. My main question is semi-rhetorical-Why do you use open source?
There are of course a number of reasons to use open source and as I mentioned in my opening paragraph it would be foolish to think I could cover all of them in a simple blog post but I’m going to list a few and I’d like you to use them as starting points to decide why you use open source and if it makes the most sense to continue using open source for your needs.
Reason 1: Belief in a goal
The first reason many people get into open source is for a deep-seated belief in a goal. I’ve written previously about what makes a strong community and why a shared set of goals and a vision is a powerful motivator. Does that require the product or community to be open source? Remember, I’m asking just questions I’d like you to consider and think through your reasonings. Can you accomplish the goals you want without being open source? Is there a reason you selected open source to accomplish what you want?
Reason 2: Make the big bucks
Second reason for choosing open source. You want to make the big money. You want to find yourself ridiculously wealthy and open source sounds like a hot buzz word that would be a great niche market to make your fortune. Is this a valid reason for choosing open source? Certainly there are open source companies which have done exceptionally well (obligatory link to the RedHat model). However, there are dissenters who strongly disagree with this model. Did you choose open source because of the money? Was open source created by companies looking to maximize profitability?
Reason 3: Share the joy
The third reason I’ll list why you might choose open source is because you like to share in something fun. Maybe you like to have a good time and enjoy hanging out with friends and having a laugh. Open source communities are a great way to meet people and just ‘hang out’ but I’d ask the same question as before. Does it have to be open source to do that? Can you have the same amount of fun outside of open source? Sharing is more unusual in a business environment but sharing fun is still something you do with your friends outside of work. Of course open source is all about sharing…but is it all about fun? Is this the reason you chose open source?
Reason 4: Leave a legacy
Maybe you chose open source because you want to leave a legacy. You want to be legendary and you believe open source is the only way to do that. Obviously that’s a bit tongue in cheek as there are many ways to leave a legacy without working in open source code. Right? A quick look at history will yield the truth about the true legends of our time. Does open source offer the only way to be legendary? Does it offer any way to leave a legacy? Be sure your focus in right when considering your motives and reasons for wanting to leave a legacy.
Of course there are many, many good reasons for using open source. I will list a handful of them in a future article but for this particular post I simply want to ask you why you chose open source? What do you want to accomplish? What motivates and drives you to work with open source.
Where to start
The best place to start is understanding your “why”. This point is key. If you aren’t sure then watch this clip from Simon Sinek. It’s absolutely worth your time.
August 8, 2014
Sharing Your Toys
It’s one of the most basic lessons we teach our children when they’re young. The idea of sharing their toys with others. We try to instill in them the values of giving up control or playing alongside others and finding joy in a shared toy. We recognize the importance of this idea and we work hard to impress it on our young kids understanding of the world.
But then something happens. Somewhere along the way they grow up and turn into adults where a different mindset takes precedence. Corporate secrets, intellectual property, and maintaining an edge of others. Where along the way did we seemingly forget those values our parents worked so hard to instill in us?
Open source is the exception to the rule
There is one model which does continue to prove the importance and value of sharing. It’s the open source way. Open source believes in the core values we were taught as children and shown to be the ‘better way’ to live. Here’s 3 quick areas that open source demonstrates a better way.
Open source encourages sharing
This one is fundamental. If we look at the four software freedoms we can see very clearly how important the concept of sharing is. To clarify, obviously these four freedoms are not a part of all open source, but do hold value as a reference when thinking through the concept of sharing.
The Four Freedoms
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1).
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3).
Of course sharing might be called other things, like distributing, or re-distributing, but the principle is the same basic principle we were taught as kids. Sharing is important for adults for the same reason its important to our children when we teach them the value of sharing. The concept of being unselfish and giving something of ours for the good of someone else.
Side note: One thing I love to see shared in open source is knowledge. It’s great to see knowledge shared and open source provides a fantastic way for people to do that. It’s the whole “teach a man to fish” principle. Sharing knowledge empowers others. Sharing your knowledge is one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone else.
Open source encourages working together
Open source not only encourages sharing of resources, and knowledge but it inevitably leads to sharing time. And when we share time we begin working together. Open source encourages collaboration and teamwork. The importance of teams should not be overlooked. When we work together we se an exponential increase in accomplishments. Something said inspires a different line of thought. Groups working together see greater success at a faster pace. Recently I saw an article about the strength of open source involving the ability to “try” a lot of possible solutions quickly.
When we work together in open source we accomplish more (and quite honestly have more fun in the process). Playing together was always a part of a kid’s childhood (even for the introvert).
Open source encourages thinking bigger
When we share with open source we encourage people to make changes, to grow, and to improve both themselves and the project they are working on. By working with open source and by sharing open source the result is new ideas come to the surface, bigger ideas. No longer are we tied to the innovation of a single person where we all work within our own silos and do things on our own, when we share our knowledge and share our resources we enable each other to build on the successes of others and build bigger, higher, and greater solutions. When we shared our toys as kids we were forced to realize there were other toys to play with, there was the opportunity to play together, and there was always the chance that we’d discover something better.
Open source sharing encourages us to reach beyond our comfort zone and think bigger.
So the next time you’re in a situation where you are encouraging a child to share, take a minute to think about your job and the ways in which you are able to continue practicing the idea of sharing. Do you have an open source community where you can volunteer some of your time? Do you have a way you can share your knowledge or your skills? If you don’t already then I encourage you to find one. Share your toys. It’s the open source way.
August 5, 2014
The Open Source Armchair Quarterback
Everyone laughs at the guy sitting back in his chair and coaching the team on the television. Regardless of the sport there’s always those individuals who think they can do it better. They see a better passing opportunity, or they imagine a smarter way to score. Those around them laugh at the obvious inability of their friend to actually accomplish the great boasts he makes. And to be fair, when seriously questioned he admits he would be incapable of performing at the same level as the pro athlete on the field. But this doesn’t stop him from continuing his boasting.
Interestingly I see this same characteristic found in some open source communities. There’s a temptation to sit back and critique those actually doing the work. It can sometimes be easier to simply point out the flaws and ways in which things could be done differently or better. Sadly sometimes these community members fail to see the same faults which befall the armchair quarterback. They neglect to acknowledge the truth regarding the work and the difficulty involved. I’d like to provide 4 quick and simple ways to encourage the armchair quarterback in an open source community to do more.
1. Get Active
The first way is simple. Just get active. Get off the chair, get involved in a team, find some way in which you can actively become a part of the open source community. And no, before you ask, merely discussing a topic on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media is not being active. To be active means to get your hands dirty doing the work. I recognize the importance of discussion however when talking is the only contribution it is a poor substitute for actually being involved. Talking provides a false sense of activity by allowing the talker to console themselves with the fact they are contributing an opinion and thus have done their part.
I understand we all have different abilities and skills. I don’t expect everyone to be active in the same way, however, I would suggest that being active involves doing more than merely debating an opinion. Talking only helps so much without actions to back them up. If you see a need determine how you can fill it. Be active in doing.
2. Give Advice When Asked
This one is often the most easily abused. It follows a bit in line with the first point and also relates directly to the armchair quarterback. The ones doing the work may or may not have asked for your opinion. In those cases where they are busy accomplishing something your advice from the comfort of your chair can easily be misconstrued, or simply be unwelcome. It is much easier to be able to offer advice if you are busy working alongside them. The pro athlete listens to their teammate. The people in the trenches with them, not the person sitting in the stands or worse at home yelling at their television.
Rather than shouting (or tweeting) your advice without provocation if you choose not to get active the second best thing is to hold your advice until there is the right opportunity. Give advice when asked or when general discussion is held. You’ll find a much better reception to your words when you offer your words of wisdom at the appropriate time and place.
3. Gather Information First
One of the worst things you can do is make assumptions without knowing all the facts. Those armchair quarterbacks believe they know the best way to do things. They see the perfect pass, the perfect score. They don’t stop to think perhaps they don’t have all the information necessary. It’s often the same in communities. Speak too quickly and without all the information and you risk looking foolish because you made wrong assumptions about the situation. Don’t guess at meanings, or assume intent.
In open source communities especially I believe it is important to assume the best rather than the worst. This involves believing others are working for the good of the community. Gathering information and facts first will help you be sure you speak with knowledge.
4. Go The Extra Mile
The final way in which the armchair quarterback can become a valuable part of the community is through going the extra mile. By going the extra mile I mean getting involved, believing in the team, and looking for ways to do more. By becoming involved in a community and becoming a member of the team you are able to do more and gain so much beyond merely a task completed.
Going the extra mile can be difficult and involves dedication and commitment. This last way is probably the hardest as it requires time. Time is such a valuable commodity and yet one of the best ways to demonstrate your heart and your intentions.
It’s simple really. If you want to truly be more than an armchair quarterback. If you want to show yourself to be a true part of the community and be of value to a project where you can be a part of a team, these four ways will help you get started. I love the feeling of having friends working beside me. Together we can build great things and overcome remarkable obstacles. I’d love to have you join me in one of the fantastic open source communities I have the privilege to work. Got questions? Ready to get started? Message me. Let’s do this thing!
July 31, 2014
6 Ways Leaders Work
I’ve had opportunity to see a wide variety of leadership styles in the various open source communities and business environments I’ve joined. It’s interesting to watch how different leaders work and how they function. Each seem to have a slightly different opinion of what makes a strong leader and what character qualities are most desirable.
Of course leaders come in a variety of sizes and shapes (we’re all unique after all). And everyone has their own opinions of what makes a strong leader. Based on my experience I’d like to share 6 ways leaders work. There are of course others. I’m merely going to point to six which I’ve seen successful from personal experience watching various leaders.
One thing I’d say before beginning my list of six attributes is that I chose my title with purpose. Some would argue leaders don’t work but rather they lead. I would suggest that they are working but simply not in the same way as other team members. These tasks are definitely something which take time and effort and work. Regardless of whether you believe the leader is in the front, beside, or behind the team, a servant leader, or an outspoken forerunner these six ways still apply.
A Leader Identifies Needs and Problems
One of the ways a leader works is identifying needs and problems within a company or project. They must be able to objectively look inward and compare with competition and identify weaknesses (and strengths). I focus on the problems because its quite easy for most to see the positives and the successes. Similarly it’s easy for anyone to point at failures but identifying is more than just seeing them. Identifying implies an entire process of finding, prioritizing, and strategizing how each is handled and addressed. Some may need to be seen and ignored. Others may require immediate action. A good leader must identify each.
A Leader Recognizes Talent
Another important way a leader works in a company or community is through the process of recognizing talent in people. A leader must recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each person and help them find the best way in which they can achieve both personal success and professional success. Everyone has unique abilities and certain tasks which they will excel at performing. A strong leader pays attention to the individual. They care for the person and they work to place each person in the role which fits them. As I mentioned this is two-fold because not only must the individual find satisfaction but the overall business or community goals must also be accomplished. Finding the right fit can be a difficult and yet highly rewarding task.
A Leader Motivates and Inspires
A leader has to be always ready to motivate and inspire. When a need or problem has been identified the leader must be then able to motivate and inspire people to solve those problems. It’s not enough to simply identify problems or point to failures. A leader must be capable of motivating solutions to be found. When a leader helps the individual find tasks which suit their needs they also inspire them to make things happen. There is a sense of excitement conveyed by a leader who is capable of motivating and inspiring others.
A Leader Listens
A leader is not always the loudest voice in the room. Sometimes the best leaders are the ones who recognize the value in quiet listening. Participating in active listening (thinking about what’s being said and applying the information) is an important character quality which I’ve seen demonstrated by good leaders. They take the time to listen to the people around them. This helps them identify problems, recognize talent, and also learn how to better inspire people. Listening is often neglected in favor of talking. Strong leaders don’t just shout orders and point the way.
I still remember watching a man I considered a great leader stop before going to an important meeting to listen to an idea of someone else. He didn’t need to stop and I wondered whether he really had the time, but he was making a point. Each person matters and each opinion is important. A good leader listens as much as they talk.
A Leader Shares The Vision
One of the most exciting parts of a leader’s job is sharing the vision. A leader doesn’t have to necessarily create the vision, but many times they have the role of sharing that vision with others. This involves demonstrating a passion for the goals and the plan to accomplish them. I’ve heard it said that excitement can be contagious. A good leader is highly contagious. They want others to see what they see and they want to share the excitement.
This task of sharing a vision can be a difficult job at times. The energy required can be quite exhausting over time, and secondly sometimes personal opinions may differ from the vision. A good leader is able to put personal differences aside when the vision has been decided upon.
A Leader Supports and Encourages
A leader must be always ready to support and encourage those around them. They must endure with resolve. I think this one is sometimes a hard one for leaders. If you look at the previous points a leader must maintain excitement and share a vision, they must motivate and inspire, and they need to actively listen. these are all very physically and emotionally draining. But a leader must continue. Leaders must exhibit endurance to continue the encouragement throughout the project or job. A leader must keep going; past the initial rush and excitement which naturally comes with a new project or a new goal.
A leader must also be a cheerleader. Leaders listen and identify ways to support others through words, through actions, or through connection with others. This task is equally difficult because it requires persistence and patience.
I hope you have been able to identify some ways in which you are a strong leader and even maybe a few ways in which you can improve. I know just writing my thoughts down I see several areas where I can improve in my leadership skills. One this is quite evident as we look through these 6 ways. Leaders definitely work. They may not be completing the tangible tasks identified as milestones on a project but they are absolutely critical to its success.
What ways do you relate to as an individual? What are your leadership strengths? What are your weaknesses? Being able to define those ways you can improve is the first step to becoming a better leader.
July 10, 2014
Introducing Something New To Open Source
Open source software is the future of our world. The power of the community has been clearly demonstrated and the opportunity to provide equality to businesses of all sizes has been shown. I’d like to share my latest endeavors with you and encourage you to join me.
Too often businesses are forced in to situations which limits their opportunity and their ability to succeed. Small businesses account for over 65% of all new jobs and more than 22.7 million small businesses existed (several years previous). Strikingly though of this dominant portion of the economy 80% average less than $50,000 in receipts. Small business is a struggle. More small businesses close than open each month and yet the struggle continues.
Small Business Confession
I’m part of a small business. I know firsthand the struggles faced and the challenges which exist in the day to day. One of the greatest concerns and frustrations I meet is the lack of strong software tools available for small businesses. This weighs on me heavily and I am deeply passionate about changing this perceived standard.
“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”
– Albert Einstein
What I Fight For
I’ve spent my entire professional life seeking ways to combat these issues and help other small businesses just like myself to succeed and find the resources they need to achieve their goals. Too many vertical markets exist where the only providers are large, closed corporations intent on maximizing their profits and focused solely on serving other businesses of their same size. The Fortune 500 helping the Fortune 500. No one is looking out for the little guy. The underdog. The up-and-comer.
Other Open Source Projects
Through the years I’ve been privileged to be a part of several open source projects and to create several open source tools aimed at providing an equal playing field for small businesses to compete at the same level as these large businesses. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned the importance of good support, the value in a community, and the opportunity for growth through conflicts.
Initiatives I’ve been fortunate to be involved in have released amazing Content Management software, Customer Relationship Management software, Project Management software, Live Chat Management software and others. Each of these software tools has been with the same goal. The empowering of small businesses. We’ve sought to reduce the ridiculous over-priced expense which previously had prohibited small businesses. But there’s still more to do. There are still more challenges to conquer and more ways to empower small businesses. Rest assured I will continue to be an active supporter and vocal contributor to each these open source projects.
Continuing To Grow
I am incredibly excited to share with you the next open source project I’ll be involved in. Myself along with several other close friends have identified a vertical market completely out-of-reach for many small businesses due to the exorbitant monthly costs. Monthly fees exceeding the entire gross revenue of approximately 75% of all U.S. small businesses. And yet a powerful piece of software which incredibly helps those businesses which can afford the service. This tool is revolutionary not just in the powerful, cutting-edge framework upon which its built but also in the disruption it brings to a previously closed market.
I look forward to sharing much more with you through my blog as we go about preparing tools. I’ll share the pain-points, the highs and the lows of beginning a new open source project and we’ll grow together as we begin to form a community. As we go if you have questions, ideas, or just general comments I welcome them. You can contact me directly through my email. The excitement is growing and the buzz is definitely starting to increase. I hope as things progress and I share different behind-the-scenes peeks you’ll start to feel the same enthusiasm that’s driving me!
Beginning a Community
Yes, I know I’m leaving things a bit in the dark at the moment but I promise more will come. I’ll share screenshots, ask for feedback, and just in general do everything I can to get you involved. I’m only one of the people involved in this very exciting effort. If you own, run, or work in a small business I hope you will become more and more involved as we go through this process. It’s never too early to become a part of this new open source community.
I believe in small businesses, equality, and community. I believe in open source.
June 25, 2014
The Beauty of Standardization
I could of course have just as easily written standardisation (to please the other half). The concept in question is not necessarily related to a particular language but rather to the idea of keeping everything looking the same. There is a certain beauty in organization and standardizing items. How does this standardization help make open source better?
A Personal Confession
First I’ll admit that I tend to exhibit some slight tendencies towards obsessive compulsive behavior. There is something inherently rewarding and satisfying in having things done neatly, cleanly and in order. I love standardization. I find myself to be much more ‘at ease’ and at peace with things when they have been organized to all “look the same” or at the very least to follow the same general pattern. But how does this relate to business? How do I apply this behavior of standardization to open source and what benefit does it offer? I believe there are several reasons why standardization and general organization can make your open source community more successful.
Standardization Saves Time
When everything is organized to be in its proper place and labeled the way it should be it becomes infinitely easier to locate what you’re looking for. If you’ve ever had to find an old client’s folder on your hard drive or network server you know exactly what I’m referring to. Do you store things by client name, by project name, by company name? If you don’t have any set standard for how every client and every project is stored it quickly becomes a mess.
What I Do
Our client folders at WebSpark all follow a very specific structure and directory tree. And yet its very simple. We have two main folders. We have an archive folder and an active folder. Active folder only contains current year projects. These projects live inside a folder named by the company for which the work is done. When the end of the year is reached these folders are moved into the archive (and merged into any existing company folders).
Having a strategy for how your folders are named makes it that much easier to look for Project X done for Company Y in Year Z. We know exactly where to look and the process becomes much faster…not to mention it looks much nicer also.
And before anyone says it – yes, I realize you can perform a hard drive search and find folders as well as files. However, I’m pretty confident having a neat and orderly directory tree will be faster over time as you get used to the structure. I’ve given you just one example of how we use a standardized structure, but if you’d like to see more just message me – I have tons of examples.Standardization saves you valuable time in your open source organization.
Standardization Simplifies Training
If you’ve ever had to show someone else how to get something done you know what I’m talking about. There’s nothing worse than trying to show how things work to an eager new co-worker and having to bounce all over in an attempt to explain why it looks like a complete chaotic mess. (See, we store only PDF’s that end in a Y in this folder because the server performs a reverse alphabetical look-up when displaying search results.)
Instead, if an open source environment has organization and structure and follows a standardized method then training becomes much more simple. Rather than attempting to explain some complex and convoluted exact use cases you can simply explain the methodology and standards followed. (It’s a bit of that teach a man to fish thing.)
Standardization Shows Thought
If you’ve ever walked into a room which has been neatly organized and everything is labeled, marked, and categorized you know what I mean. One of the first thoughts to cross my mind in those situations is “wow, this took some time.” When standardization is implemented and followed it demonstrates careful thoughtfulness. It shows an attention to detail and it shows the organizer has a plan.
Let’s turn that thinking towards an open source project. If you look to join a project as a volunteer and you want to be involved you start to look for how the “room” is arranged. Is it easy to find things, does there seem to be a method to how things are done? If there are clearly defined standards and procedures you are instantly more confident. Clearly an open source project with easy-to-follow standardization has put significant time and effort into being a successful project. Standardization in open source projects leads to success. Not by the standards alone, but by what those standards represent: care, thoughtfulness, and attention to the details.
Standardization Saves Lives
That sounds overly dramatic but allow me to give you a real life example. I am sure many of you are aware of or have at least seen the following sign. It exists around the world and at one point was the subject of an international meeting.
In 2008 an international committee met to discuss the need for an internationally recognized symbol and a universal AED sign to be used everywhere. This committee was looking to implement standardization. The result of that meeting is what we have here. An instantly recognizable symbol that will make saving lives easier. In the frantic moments of cardiac arrest being able to quickly locate and use an AED greatly increases the chances of successful resuscitation.
Open Source Applications
So I briefly touched on the open source aspect in one of the thoughts above, but in reality, every single one affects open source.
When dealing with an open source project, particularly one where the volunteers are not paid, time is of the utmost value. Every minute counts and if standards help to save valuable time then they increase the amount of contributions and the value of those contributions.
Open source communities with standardizations in place allows for existing volunteers to easily and quickly bring new contributors in because the training is simple. Standardization means you can take ten minutes and explain exactly how to contribute to an open source project and the new volunteer can then immediately do something.
Whenever I’m looking at open source projects and debating how much I want to be involved I look at the standardizations. For me this demonstrates how “thoughtful” the project and the community is. If things are standardized and processes are in place I feel more confident that my time and my efforts will be well spent because the project and community demonstrate a well-thought out plan. (Although I admit sometimes the chaotic projects allow me the opportunity to help create the standardization and the processes.)
Now you’ve heard the reasons why standardization is beautiful. Get out there, seek out the open source projects you’re involved with and see how organized the processes are. Implement standardization and improve the health of your community.
June 19, 2014
The Role of Trust in Open Source
I still remember the first time my parents deemed me old enough to stay at home by myself. I felt an incredible feeling of power and responsibility. I also felt strangely free. I could do just about anything I wanted and I had the entire house to myself. Of course my parents had only run to the store and would be back in only a few minutes but for those few minutes I was master of my domain. My parents left me alone because they trusted me. They trusted me to not get in trouble and to not burn the house down! So what does trust look like in open source and how does that trust effect volunteers and contributors?
I still remember the first time my parents deemed me old enough to stay at home by myself. I felt an incredible feeling of power and responsibility. I also felt strangely free. I could do just about anything I wanted and I had the entire house to myself. Of course my parents had only run to the store and would be back in only a few minutes but for those few minutes I was master of my domain. My parents left me alone because they trusted me. They trusted me to not get in trouble and to not burn the house down! So what does trust look like in open source and how does that trust effect volunteers and contributors?
Trust Can Be Scary
Just as with everything there are two sides to every story. As a young boy staying home alone I may have been scared (a bit) by the prospect of being left alone and the weight of the responsibilities which came along. But fear was probably not that big of an actual issue for me. Fear can be a powerful motivator and most likely encouraged me to act even more responsibly. The experience wasn’t necessarily a scary one for me.
For my parents however, this was an incredibly scary moment. They were leaving everything they owned to a child. A complete and total novice who lacked experience and the years of wisdom they already held. They had to place their trust in someone else who they clearly knew to be not as mature as themselves. Trust for them was a very scary and intimidating thing.
Open source communities live and die on trust. For the most part open source communities consist of two types of people. Those who have been “around the block” and have worked in the community enough to have experience and those who are the “newbies” or the newcomers who have yet to demonstrate their expertise in the community. These two personalities mimic very much the dynamics of the relationship I had with my parents when they let me alone for the first time. The seasoned community contributor at some point must place trust in the younger, less-experienced volunteer. This can be an intimidating and scary step. Many things could go wrong (and they might). But the very act of placing trust in another person demonstrates their value to the community. And it must be done for the open source community to continue to grow and expand.
Trust Takes Time
My parents didn’t wake up one morning and just walk out the door tossing me the keys as they left. Their trust was based on watching me grow and mature over years of lessons learned and time spent interacting with them and others. They watched me handle situations and problems and used that knowledge as part of their foundation of trust.
Obviously in open source we’re not waiting years before trusting people. But the principle is still a valid one. We must take time to get to know others. Open source volunteers need to interact with one another. When we take the time to learn more about someone we build a strong foundation for trusting them with more responsibilities. Trust in open source requires a community of people interested in learning from each other.
Trust doesn’t happen overnight (usually). And it doesn’t happen without work. New volunteers must work on building their reputation by doing little tasks “around the house” and taking on responsibilities which will allow the older contributors the opportunity to watch how they handle situations and problems. These little things are the foundation which trust can be built on.
Trust Empowers Open Source
I mentioned it earlier but when my parents left me alone I felt an incredible sense of freedom and responsibility. I was “king”. Did I do anything crazy? Absolutely not. I knew if I blew it I would be waiting a significantly longer time before being given another opportunity. And yet I felt incredibly empowered. I could make the decisions and run the show.
Both of the previous points can be applied mostly to the parent, or the older volunteer, this point however is very firmly affixed to the new contributor. Here is the opportunity to allow them to show what they can do. New contributors are empowered to contribute to open source because of trust. Once they have this responsibility given to them the power is shared. The community is strengthened. And the cycle continues.
Open source communities are completely empowered by the trust that exists inherently in their volunteers. Without trust the entire intricate network of relationships and people dissolves. I mentioned in a previous post, people are the true value of open source, and if the bond of trust between those people falters the entire network of relationships and ultimately the community fails.
Trust Breeds Success
But rather than looking at the negative side of lack of trust I prefer to look at the positives when trust is placed correctly. When a community of volunteers effectively follows this pattern of placing trust in newcomers, giving them responsibility and decision-making opportunities they encourage growth – personal growth and community growth.
The new volunteers who demonstrate their maturity and responsibility when trust is placed in them will then in turn grow into the seasoned volunteer and will look for other people they can nurture and place their trust. As I said before it’s a cycle. This cycle when followed correctly encourages growth by its very nature. The community grows and even more importantly – the relationships that underpin the community grow. And that’s what open source is all about, people and relationships.
Trust is the bond of a good relationship. Open source is valuable because of the people and trust is what holds those people together. Therefore trust is the bond of open source.
June 5, 2014
The Validity of Open Source
Open source is the combined contributions of millions of independent volunteers. This single concept brings with it a few inherent realities. In this article let’s look at a few potentially concerning points about the nature of open source contributions.
One of the major, oft-touted benefits of open source software is the diverse, large and ever ready army of developers contributing to the project. This can be an incredibly powerful argument when demonstrating the value of open source to a corporation. However, the larger the community and the bigger the pool of contributors the more opportunity there exists for problems or potential security risks.
Let’s look at a few potential areas for problems and how good open source communities are protecting themselves from problems.
More Contributors Means More Risk
This is a very real concern. When a community grows there are more developers contributing code to the project. As more developers contribute code and their solutions to problems there is a very real need to establish some guidelines for all contributors to follow.
Establishing a standard for code submissions, requiring acceptance of a common license, and implementing peer review are three ways in which good open source projects help to mitigate the risk of problematic code.
Establishing Coding Standards
Code standards are a set of guidelines or rules which the open source project expects all code submissions to adhere to. Most open source projects of any size establish these standards, Joomla, OpenStack, Ubuntu are three such examples. Usually code standards are simple procedures to ensure that every code submission looks similar and once merged will make the system feel as a single unified piece of software.
Accepting A Common License
Open source projects should always have a software license of some kind. This defines the distribution policies and the methods in which others can use the software. An important step to consider when allowing developers to contribute code is the license which should be applied to the proposed code. It is important because developers must be aware and in agreement with the license type chosen by the project. Some open source projects request a signature to acknowledge the license type of any code submitted.
Implementing Peer Review
When an open source project becomes large it becomes increasingly difficult for a limited number of core contributors to review each and every code request submitted. Very quickly this becomes a bottleneck for the entire project and slows the progress and growth of the software. Implementing peer review is the most common practice for fixing this bottleneck. This process requires other developers to understand the mission of the project and the quality to be achieved from all submissions.
More Contributors Means Less Security
Some argue that when open source projects grow in size they open themselves up for security risks and hazards brought about from a diverse group of contributors and secret agendas which might otherwise be disallowed in closed source software.
While there is a certain reality in a singular controlled environment found in closed source corporations the advantages of open source far outweigh the perceived risks. In addition, these risks can be easily controlled with a thoughtful approach to community organization.
If a community is grown organically and carefully around the shared vision and goals of the organization then the community becomes much stronger than even a closed source corporation. They become more than individuals contributing code to a project.
When volunteers share a common vision they become so much more than a community of individuals.
Individual objectives fade and blend into the whole. Everyone begins to merge into a single focused community.
When a community is built on common goals and a vision which is shared by the contributors then personal beliefs are enforced and individual personal ethics are held strongly voluntarily. Open source provides a certain freedom. The idea that each volunteer is responsible for their own actions brings with it a sense of personal empowerment but also a sense of self-governing.
Trust is not something to be bought. Trust is something shared. Trust empowers people. Open source communities are built on trust.
More Contributors Means Less Progress
Some would attempt to raise the argument that when the number of contributors grows too great then the progress of the project is slowed and ultimately the project suffers. The notion is a common one and relates well to an old phrase, “too many cooks spoil the soup”. While there is truth in the saying this is not an absolute truth and taking the proper steps will make this potential negative an incredible positive for open source communities.
Assigning clear tasks and delegating responsibilities is one way in which good open source projects are able to protect themselves against the potential problems of too many contributors. When a project defines goals and objectives and then breaks them down to assignable tasks they encourage contributors to work together towards accomplishing those goals. Instead of everyone dabbling in everything they clearly assign specific tasks and thus make tremendous progress.
Listen and Focus
Similar to what was discussed earlier the establishing of a single shared vision and focus for the project will help developers and other contributors to keep momentum moving forwards towards accomplishing those goals. This means less time wasted in meetings and endless debates and discussions on the trivial matters and empowers contributors to spend their time focused on accomplishing the vision of the project.
Yes, listening is important and ensuring the shared vision is an appropriate representation of the shared goals of the community requires discussion and debate; but this should be done occasionally rather then consistently. Once it’s been determined and agreed, it’s time to move on. The result is the larger the community the better for the project because more progress will be made.
Nothing is Perfect
There will always be pain points in open source and no community is perfect. However, the argument that open source communities are somehow less ideal than a closed source corporation is simply untrue. The list above is just a small sample of how each potentially perceived risk of open source can be mitigated and resolved.
Open source may not be perfect, but there are millions of
volunteers reasons why open source is a better option than the alternative.
May 21, 2014
Enterprise Open Source
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
May 16, 2014
Unless: A Powerful Word in Open Source
I’m quite sure everyone is familiar with the popular Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax. May more may only know the recent popular movie version. My kids love the book. I read it (again) last night to them and was reminded how the word unless was a central focus.
Wait a minute, related to open source?
As I stated in the title unless is a powerful word. I think it implies so many different things. Specifically I love the implications the word unless has for open source communities. I know, I know, you’re thinking I’m crazy. Am I trying to draw out a relationship which doesn’t exist? I don’t think I am. Hang on, stick with me and see if you agree with me.
Here’s several reasons why I think the word “unless” relates to open source.
In The Beginning
Let’s take a short trip back in time. We’ll start in 1983 with a gentleman by the name, Richard Stallman. Richard saw an environment where an operating system (Unix) was being very quickly used by a variety of businesses and educations. He created a license familiar to many people in open source, GNU General Public License (GPL). The purpose was to establish a license for the free distribution, replication, modification, and sharing of Unix code. He continued to work on this license and by 1990 had almost enough contributed code to create a full operating system based on his license…and then it stalled. Things slowed down and the concept of an open source operating system might have died there – unless…
A student by the name of Linus Torvalds stepped up with an announcement of a new operating system kernel. He shared his newly created code (Linux) under a shareable license, and thus established a new level of free and open source software.
So we can easily see how concept of unless played a role in the original creation of free and open source. Let’s look next at a current example.
Modern Day Open Source
If we jump back to current times we can see another example where the power of the word unless has disrupted things again. This time let’s look at a technology called OpenStack. This relatively new free and open source software has exploded onto the scene as a leader in open source cloud computing. How do the ideas found in the meaning of unless apply in this market? Again, it’s an easy path to see.
Cloud computing, or more simply, the distribution of computer processing across multiple machines (servers) has become the buzzword for hosting and server providers in recent years. Everyone wants to move “to the cloud” even if this is unclear to them what it implies. The technology was complicated, and the market very closed. It was difficult for most businesses to take advantage of cloud computing as a result of these barriers.
In 2010 this all changed. Rackspace (and NASA) thought differently. In fact, somewhere along the way I guarantee you there came a point where someone, somewhere, sitting in an office thought (perhaps said aloud)…unless. These two organizations jointly created and released a new free and open source cloud computing platform. In true open source form they established a non-profit corporate entity to manage and run the project and today there are more than 200 companies who have joined in to promote the project.
Challenge The Status Quo
In both of these stories and in countless other stories the underlying thought is the same. We see people thinking differently. We see people challenging the status quo and questioning the “norm”. We see people caught up with the idea of unless.
Where would open source be without this idea of doing things differently? More importantly, where would our world be without these people willing to stop, to think, to stand up, and say “unless”.
What about you
Take a minute and look back on your own history. Can you point to specific times when you’ve stopped and said wait a minute, I don’t think we have to do this? Have you found times when you stood for something?
Rather than giving up in a dejected, defeated attitude of accepting what has been put before you, have you been bold, been creative, been original and said, “unless…”
This is why I believe the word, unless, is powerful within this one word lies the ability to affect a market, to impact a community, to change the world. Open source holds keys to changing our world, we’re seeing new applications daily and in far more areas than software alone (see this article about farming to name one).
Great things happen when we, as individuals, as volunteers, are committed to fighting apathy, focused on improving our world, and willing to think ‘outside-the-box’.
The next time you feel like something might have an opportunity to excel, to truly be something great but is somehow limited, restricted, or closed – don’t be afraid. Think it quietly to yourself, whisper it softly to a friend, or boldly stand and shout it. Unless.
You never know what greatness will follow.
May 14, 2014
Increase Your Company Size with Open Source
In honor of small business week, I felt this post would be an appropriate one. Small businesses often have apprehensions when entering a meeting with a potential client. One question in particular presents considerable problems. How many people are in your company?
There’s a number of myths lending to this unnecessary fear. And yes, I believe it’s unnecessary. Let’s look at these myths and then examine the truth.
Myth: Small Beginnings are Bad
It can be easy to forget that every business had to start somewhere. Of course we’ve heard all the grand stories of the humble beginnings behind mammoth corporations. We’ve enjoyed the nostalgic references to beginning in a garage. In fact, here’s 5 quick ones: Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google, Hewlett-Packard.
And thus it’s established. Even some of the largest businesses in the world had small beginnings. Why then should you be bothered because your company is small? This comes down to perception. You quickly accept and even enjoy hearing the stories of how giant companies began. In fact, you can relate to them quite easily. But there’s a disconnect between the past and the present. You view the past through the eyes of the present. Because they are now an incredibly large and successful company they are somehow validated.
Myth: Small Businesses Lack Expertise
I’ve heard and seen firsthand small businesses who mistakenly equate company size with expertise and experience. Small businesses are founded by individuals. Individuals with a goal and a dream. They start by seeing a problem and forming a solution. Perhaps it is for themselves, perhaps it is for others. Either way they devote their energy to creating a business built around their solution. By the very nature of creating a solution they become an expert.
Unfortunately many small businesses as a result of their background and way of forming discredit their own expertise. Sadly, they believe larger companies with more employees and more managers somehow magically have more expertise. Obviously there’s a greater opportunity for experts within a larger company, but it’s not guaranteed.
Myth: Small Businesses Are Missing Credibility
Thankfully this reason has become a bit less in recent years, however I still hear this referenced on occasion. Small business lacks credibility because its less substantial than some large brick-and-mortar corporation. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The size of a business is not what establishes credibility. There are hundreds of examples of large corporations which hold massive buildings and substantial employee lists with little to no credibility.
The size of your business is not what grants credibility. Rather the quality of your work and the testimony of your customers are what establish your credibility and your trustworthiness. Whether your company is a company of one or one hundred the true basis for your business credibility lies in your customers.
Credibility comes from the quality of your work and the testimonials of your customers, not the size of your company.
Small businesses are the backbone of economies around the globe. Every business began as a small business. There is no shame in a small business and a small business can most definitely hold immense credibility and demonstrate expertise in their field.
The next couple of questions are perhaps the most interesting. How does this relate to open source and how does open source increase the size of your company?
Fact: Open Source is Global
This is where small business is no longer a small business. Open source is more than code. Open source is a community. As a result, when a small business uses open source they are no longer working alone. Instead this joining of a business to an open source community increases the pool of knowledge, of experts, of potential partnerships incredibly. No longer is this small business working alone. They are now a part of a community, something bigger than just themselves.
Small businesses using open source can boldly share the size of the community as yet one more reason to trust in them. Again, the myths above are simply myths. The truth is open source provides a global community filled with more individuals than any single company. Your clients can rest assured there is a pool of available resources existing far beyond the size of your company.
Fact: Open Source is Available
The small business which contributes and uses open source in their solutions leverage the availability of an open source community. Time and geographic constraints which most businesses face are less important when a company is built on an open source system where contributions and volunteers exist around the world and span every timezone. The availability of open source enhances the availability of your own business as well.
Fact: Open Source is Dependable
The communities surrounding an open source project are an intimate gathering of volunteers passionate about the project they contribute to. As mentioned earlier, by being global and available, established open source communities are dependable. They can be relied on and they lend credibility to those small businesses which build on them. Small businesses do well to build on open source, contribute back to open source, and become a part of an open source community. By doing so, they enhance both the credibility of the project and their own credibility.
Simply put, those small businesses which place value on open source and integrate open source throughout their business will quickly find the value of open source. Small businesses grow in size, in location, in availability, and in dependability by leveraging the power of open source. Open source increases far more than your company size. Don’t neglect this valuable resource when growing your small business. And never be ashamed of where you began.
May 13, 2014
[R4S] Reading For Success
This is the start of a ridiculously fun series about reading for success. I hope to share insights and advice I’ve received from various business books. If you struggle to find time to read or what to read maybe this series will help.
I should begin by sharing that I love to read. In fact is one of y all time favorite things to do and I’m pretty fast. (Interested in how fast you are? You can take a very quick test here for free. If you’re curious I’ll share what my average normally is.) And thankfully I can retain most everything I read and recall it later.
I thought perhaps others would be interested in an abbreviated list of books and summaries I’ve found to be helpful as they relate to business and personal success. Please don’t think I’ve been successful with all of these or have already mastered the advice. I merely hope to share things that I find interesting or helpful.
Ok, without any further delay, let’s jump into the first book.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
By John C. Maxwell
“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” says Maxwell. “These laws carry consequences with them. I’ve seen them at work in more than ninety countries around the world. Apply the laws and people will follow you. Violate or ignore them, and you will not be able to lead others. But here’s the good news: every one of the laws can be learned.”
In this book John Maxwell highlights 21 principles he’s uncovered throughout his business career. He applies these principles to various situations throughout history and provides anecdotal applications based on these 21 principles. Many of them are logical and easy to understand.
Some of these “laws” you’re probably already aware of, Maxwell simply gives it a name and applies to to a particular situation to make it easier to grasp. Overall, I found this book to be an easy one to read and held some good applicable concepts which I could relate to and apply to my own business.
I highly recommend this book and have personally found many great applicable ideas. Especially when looking at the power of an open source community and examining how some of these dynamics relate to an open source situation. If you have the time you should definitely pick up a copy (ebooks are great).
Here are the 21 laws as defined by the author. So many of these are of incredible importance and help define a strong leader.
- The Law of the Lid
Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower your ability to lead, the lower the lid on your potential.
- The Law of Influence
The power to influence lies in the ability to get people to participate. If no one follows then you are not leading. Management is part of being a leader, but managing is not the only requirement of a leader.
- The Law of Process
This law demonstrates what matters most is what you do for the long haul. A good leader requires a lifetime of dedication and perseverance. Truly successful leaders are demonstrated in the day-to-day.
- The Law of Navigation
Leaders are navigators. They count the cost before making commitments for themselves and for others. Anyone can steer. Leaders chart a course.
- The Law of E.F. Hutton
When real leaders speak, people listen. Learn how a person became a leader: their background, who, what, where, when, why.
- The Law of Solid Ground
Good character builds trust. Trust is the foundation of leadership. To build trust a leader must demonstrate: competence, connection and character.
- The Law of Respect
People naturally follow leaders who are stronger than they are. if people do not trust you they will not respect you and they will not follow you.
- The Law of Intuition
Leaders see things with a bias. Leaders instinctively know what should be done in a situation. Leadership intuition separates the great leaders from good leaders.
- The Law of Magnetism
Who you are will define who you attract. People follow leaders with whom they share several key areas (e.g. attitude, generation, background, values, life experience etc…)
- The Law of Connection
Strong leaders touch hearts before asking for hands. Each connection is between individuals and the relationship between them is what matters most. Six keys to connection are provided.
- The Law of the Inner Circle
A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him. Look for greatness in others. Find people you should include in your inner circle.
- The Law of Empowerment
Secure leaders give power to others. If a leader is able to give away power the organization becomes more powerful. Only empowered people reach their full potential.
- The Law of Reproduction
Leaders are the ones which help others become leaders. Leaders develop others to see the big picture, attract other leaders, create an environment which nurtures leadership.
- The Law of Buy-In
People follow worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes. The leader and the vision always go together. A leader must have people believe in them and the vision before becoming a reality.
- The Law of Victory
Leaders find ways for their team to win. There are 3 components to victory: unity of vision, diversity of skills, encourages others to reach potential.
- The Law of the Big Mo
Leaders develop momentum. Leaders concentrate on what they can accomplish not what they can’t. They celebrate victories regardless of the size. Leaders endure under pressure.
- The Law of Priorities
Leaders recognize the importance of organization. Leaders follow the 3 R’s when prioritizing: required, return, and reward.
- The Law of Sacrifice
Leaders are willing to give up to go up. Sacrifice is the true nature of strong leaders.
- The Law of Timing
Leaders understand knowing when to lead is just as important as knowing what to do and where to go. The right action at the right time is what bring success.
- The Law of Explosive Growth
Explosive growth requires the ability to develop the right leaders. Leaders who develop leaders position themselves for explosive growth as compared to leaders who develop followers.
- The Law of Legacy
A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. A team of good leaders is required to succeed long-term. Always be developing your successor. A good leader knows when to walk away.
May 9, 2014
Corporate Culture in Open Source
The buzzword of culture within a company is a frequently debated and often examined topic. A corporate culture establishes and shapes a company future. Does the same exist for open source communities? Does a culture exist and does it shape their future?
A corporate culture is defined as a set of shared values and beliefs which are representative of a company and defines its employees’ actions and the corporate hiring processes. Often this culture is founded on the goals and structure of the company and centers around the target market and the company approach to customers. Does this relate to open source? Yes. Absolutely. An open source community also has a very distinct culture and one which must be carefully considered, thoughtfully prepared and an intricate part of the organization’s core.
Defining a community culture
How does one define community culture? Here are some reasons why an open source community should establish a culture and some ways in which they should be implemented. Let’s begin with the reason why open source organizations should establish a culture.
The reason for establishing a culture
First, a community culture is of utmost importance in providing the volunteers a sense of a common bond. Much like a mission or vision statement serves to provide the general public with a set of goals and objectives the project wants to accomplish, a community culture provides the vision, attitude and beliefs for the volunteers within the project. Think of the culture as the internal representation of the mission and vision in a way.
Every community has a culture
The reason a culture must exist is simple. The public image of the community is in reality the public’s view of a community’s culture. Therefore every community has a culture. If a culture always exists, then the next step is to make sure the culture properly captures the common beliefs and goals of the community in order to provide direction to its volunteers. By understanding a culture always exists the issue is not the establishing of a culture, but rather establishing the right culture. What does the right culture do for a community?
A community culture defines direction
When a strong and appropriate culture exists within a community the volunteers and contributors are able to focus on how that culture helps it accomplish its goals. The right culture should resonate within the heart of the community and give a sense of pride, a feeling of unity, and a strong singular focus.
A community culture gives satisfaction
Culture within an open source community have an opportunity to provide incredible satisfaction to its contributors. When volunteers are part of an organization where they agree with the goals and the culture they find a personal satisfaction in being a part of the organization.
A community culture attracts like-minded people
In a corporate environment the culture will dictate somewhat the hiring processes and how new employees are brought on board. In a community environment the “hiring” is most often replaced with “recruiting” where the process of new contributors and volunteers are found and brought into the community.
The ingredients of a strong community culture
A strong community culture includes a focus on the vision of the organization and how that vision is interpreted in the everyday activities of the community. But perhaps the single most important ingredient in a strong, healthy community culture is the people. The people provide the cohesive glue which hold the entire organization and culture together. The people together form the story of the community.
So there you have it, a very clear and concise thread which runs throughout a community. A thread made up of the people. A thread which traces a path through the history of the community and connects the founding vision to the current activities. This unique thread is the culture of the community and every community has one.