Open Source First: A manifesto for private companies

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Core purpose

This is a manifesto that any private organization can use to frame their collaboration transformation. Take a read and let me know what you think.

I presented a talk at the Linux TODO group using this article as my material. For those of you who are not familiar with the TODO group, they support open source leadership at commercial companies. It is important to lean on each other because legal, security, and other shared knowledge is so important for the open source community to move forward. This is especially true because we need to represent both the commercial and public community best interests.

"Open source first" means that we look to open source before we consider vendor-based products to meet our needs. To use open source technology correctly, you need to do more than just consume, you need to participate to ensure the open source technology survives long term. To participate in open source requires your engineer's time be split between working for your company and the open source project. We expect to bring the open source contribution intent and collaboration internal to our private company. We need to define, build, and maintain a culture of contribution, collaboration, and merit-based work.

Open garden development

Our private company strives to be a leader in technology through its contributions to the technology community. This requires more than just the use of open source code. To be a leader requires participation. To be a leader also requires various types of participation with groups (communities) outside of the company. These communities are organized around a specific R&D project. Participation in each of these communities is much like working for a company. Substantial results require substantial participation.

Code more, live better

We must be generous with computing resources, stingy with space, and encourage the messy, creative stew that results from this. Allowing people access to the tools of their business will transform them. We must have spontaneous interactions. We must build the online and physical spaces that encourage creativity through collaboration. Collaboration doesn't happen without access to each other in real time.

Innovation through meritocracy

We must create a meritocracy. The quality of ideas has to overcome the group structure and tenure of those in it. Promotion by merit encourages everyone to be better people and employees. While we are being the best badasses we can be, hardy debates between passionate people will happen. Our culture should encourage the obligation to dissent. Strong opinions and ideas lead to a passionate work ethic. The ideas and opinions can and should come from all. It shouldn't make difference who you are, rather it should matter what you do. As meritocracy takes hold, we need to invest in teams that are going to do the right thing without permission.

Project to product

As our private company embraces open source contribution, we must also create clearer separation between working upstream on an R&D project and implementing the resulting product in production. A project is R&D where failing fast and developing features is the status quo. A product is what you put into production, has SLAs, and is using the results of the R&D project. The separation requires at least separate repositories for projects and products. Normal separation consists of different communities working on the projects and products. Each of the communities require substantial contribution and participation. In order to keep these activities separate, there needs to be a workflow of customer feature and bug fix requests from project to product.

Next, we highlight the major steps in creating, supporting, and expanding open source at our private company.

A school for the technically gifted

The seniors must mentor the inexperienced. As you learn new skills, you pass them on to the next person. As you train the next person, you move on to new challenges. Never expect to stay in one position for very long. Get skills, become awesome, pass learning on, and move on.

Find the best people for your family

We love our work. We love it so much that we want to work with our friends. We are part of a community that is larger than our company. Recruiting the best people to work with us, should always be on our mind. We will find awesome jobs for the people around us, even if that isn't with our company. Thinking this way makes hiring great people a way of life. As hiring becomes common, then reviewing and helping new hires becomes easy.

More to come

I will be posting more details about each tenet on my blog, stay tuned.

This article was originally posted on Sean Robert's blog. Licensed CC BY.

Sean Roberts
Lead with empathy while focusing on results. I practice meritocracy. Intelligent things found here.

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