December 28, 2015
What’s Your Name
I’ll never forget the lesson I learned from a rather famous book entitled, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Granted, this book is almost a rite of passage for some industries and now sits among others on the shelf of great books. There are many lessons you can learn and practical tips you can take away from this author’s suggestions and advice. One of them which I doubt I will ever fully master (though I continue to try) is the importance of remembering a person’s name. One of the quotes from the book perfectly encapsulates this idea:
“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
If this is the sweetest and most important sound than what a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate that you also find them important. Simply remember their name. There are of course numerous ways to attempt to do this. I’m sure you’ve experienced the sad, and awkward occurrence when someone tries to remember your name by repeating it at you over and over through the course of a one minute conversation. Clearly this is somewhat embarrassing and a bit annoying. They’re attempting to use a technique which has been around forever. Remember this?
“Repetition aids learning. Repetition aids learning. Repetition aids learning.”
This advice, though accurate, can be detrimental to the relationship if used inappropriately or done too obtrusively. Therefore, remember the importance of learning someone’s name but also the importance of doing it the right way.
A person’s name is special. Even though there may be millions of Davids, or Steves in the universe to each individual that name is special and unique. If there is one way to improve your relationship with someone then prove that they are important to you by remembering something special to them: their name. It’s almost an offhand conversation starter. What do you do when you meet someone for the first time? You ask their name. You’re probably not even listening to the answer because you have already moved on to the next question in your mind or the next thought you want to share. But this is a mistake if you want to build a relationship (and all those times when you don’t know if you want to build a relationship). Because you don’t always know where a road will lead.
Asking someone their name therefore is your first chance to build the right foundation for a relationship. Don’t take the opportunity lightly and don’t let the moment pass you by. Ask with care, ask with purpose, ask and then…listen. Your first question is also your best chance to start right. Take a moment the next time you ask: What’s your name?
May 26, 2014
Taking Time Away From Keyboard
I love technology, and I love working on code. In fact, sometimes I realize I’ve been spending every waking moment in front of a screen of some kind. This past weekend was a welcome change of pace from that life. A weekend away from keyboard.
My family and my wife’s family has always had an affinity for camping. I remember soon after my wife and I were married and after spending several camping trips “roughing it” in a tent we decided it was time to upgrade to the “next level”. Which meant in our meager way, we moved from a tent camper to a popup.
This was a huge move for us. We weren’t sleeping on the ground any more but actually had beds and even a sink! We were most definitely living the high-life. Now looking back it’s been 7 years we’ve spent our camping time in this wonderful little camper. We’ve grown from a family of two to a family of 5. And through it all this camper has given us a chance to get away from it all. A chance to get away from keyboard and all the encumbering constraints of technology.
As busy as my life can get at times it’s critical to take some time and get away. De-stress and even (dare I say it) step away from the devices and electronics. I have found these trips away to be incredibly helpful in more ways than one. Not only do I get a chance to leave the electronics behind but I also can take a deep breath of fresh air and do something that is truly special. I get to spend quality time with my family.
Sometimes amidst all the conferences, airports, lecture halls, business meetings, and all-night coding sessions it can be easy to
forget neglect the importance of family and friends. Or pets. Or anything beyond the computer. Life is more than lines of code, more than business meetings, more than flights and hotels. Life is about relationships (I’ve blogged about that before – here and here). Sure a good bit of my travels and meetings are for building relationships and spending time with my “extended family”. But these camping trips are special.
So here’s a word of encouragement. Don’t neglect your closest relationships. Remember that computers, phones, tablets, and all other electronic devices are tools to accomplish a purpose, they don’t control you. Step away from them and spend some time in ‘real-life’. Enjoy the fresh air and nature and the opportunity to share your life with family and friends.
(My kids with their cousins)
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 6, 2014
Where’s the Value in Open Source?
Open Source is valuable. Very few people would argue that point. There is most definitely a sense of intrinsic worth. But where does this value exist? Is it in the code produced or in something else?
By the very nature of open source, (read more about the standard four freedoms here) the ability to view and access the source code is a powerful, driving factor. Because the code is so freely accessible and a prominent focus of open source it can easily be considered to be the value of open source.
Lines of Code
This assumption in the value of open source being the code corresponds to the influx of available services to measure and quantify this code. Take for example the social code-sharing website, GitHub. This overwhelmingly popular service provides all types of stats on code and changes made. In fact, GitHub recently released a new feature called “pulse” and it provided all manner of new assessments of the code. How many people and how many commits over a specific time period and the total number of lines of code touched. Do you see the focus? The code. All the value is implied to be held within the code.
Often times in a community we continue with this idea of placing the value of open source and the community in the code, or the product. This belief perpetuates a problem. Is the value of open source truly in a product which can be freely replicated, forked, and changed at will?
The real value of open source is not in the product. Open source is more than the code. It’s a community surrounding a shared set of goals. And when this community works together to develop code it costs time. Lots of time is spent creating this product. In fact, another website, Ohloh.net begins to touch on this when it mentions how many hours are estimated to create a particular project. But it doesn’t really capture the heart of it. It’s a great start, but still there’s something missing.
Sure open source is about code, and yes, it’s about community, and its about the time spent, but there’s something even more. Open source is about the people involved. Code can be replaced, re-written, even removed completely and the project will continue to move forward. The open source community is made up of people who are dedicated their time and their life to see its success.
Herein is where the true value lies. The people who give their time to create this amazing open source community. These people give their life to see their project grow. And this is valuable. Open source communities must be careful to place their focus correctly. When the people are neglected, the value of the project is lost, the community will suffer, and the code will fail.
The Hidden Treasure
If we realize that the people which make up a community are the truly valuable part of an open source project then its important to look at how this wealth should be handled to be nurtured properly and grown. Obviously we want to grow the most valuable part of our community. We want to strengthen the bonds which bring the community together to create something bigger than themselves. That’s the secret of a strong and growing community. The relationships. When the relationships between the people making up a community are strong then the project will thrive. The culture of a community matters.
The next time you see a thriving open source project, take a minute to examine the community. Checkout how the volunteers are viewed and appreciated. Remember, a community is only as strong as the people which make it up. And remember relationships matter. The people and the relationships are the true treasure of an open source community.