How to influence people to join open source |

How to influence people to join open source

Giving people what they want is the most effective way to introduce people to open source.

pipe in a building
Image credits : 

Jen Wike Huger, CC0


Subscribe now

Get the highlights in your inbox every week.

If you are reading, you might be able to code, and you are probably reading this on an open source browser on some elusive Linux distro. You probably have not seen a browser ad in years because you are running an open source ad blocker. You feel warm and fuzzy when you think about penguins.

Simply, you know the power of the force of open source and have made it part of your life. Sadly, not everyone has found the open source way yet. Their computers are painfully slow; they see more ads than content when they surf the web; they spend their money on patented and copyrighted junk. Some of these people may even be related to you—take your nieces and nephews, for example.

Knowledge is wealth

So, how do you introduce your nieces and nephews (and everyone else) to open source?

I tried to answer this question and being a professor, a profession well known for being long-winded, I ended up with a book: Create, Share, and Save Money Using Open Source Projects, published by McGraw-Hill

The trick, I think, is finding something that your niece or nephew wants but doesn't have the money to buy, then showing them how open source knowledge can get them what they want.

Knowledge has a unique property among commodities. Unlike gold or wheat, it not only retains value when it is shared, but it can rapidly increase in value. The internet enables unlimited scaling of this process, as the price of information-sharing approaches zero. Everyone with internet access has historically unprecedented access to this wealth. For example, I provide free links to repositories with books, education, movies, how-tos, maps, music, photographs, art, software, and recipes.

Don't buy it, make it

Free and open source is expanding further into the physical world, and we all have the opportunity to radically reduce the cost of just about everything you can buy at Walmart or Amazon, including toys, electronics, household goods, and clothing. The combination of open source sharing and digital manufacturing—using 3D printers and similar tools—enables individuals to make their own complex, valuable products.

For years, scientists have been doing this in their labs. But now, anyone can easily customize products to fit their exact needs. There are already millions of free designs available.



Recyclebot (Joshua M. Pearce, GPLv3)

The way to really knock the bottom out of a product's price is to source the raw materials from trash. This is possible for a dizzying array of products because of recent improvements in small-scale recycling processes (like Recyclebots, which I use in my lab) that enable people to make valuable products from waste. Best of all, anyone can get these green, custom creations for a small fraction of the cost of a proprietary system. We can normally produce a custom product for less than the sales tax on a conventional product—with the same functionality, a better, customized form, and almost no cost.

Learn more

In Create, Share, and Save Money Using Open Source Projects, I share the potential in at-home manufacturing and recycling and even how to score free big-ticket items, including housing and electricity, with open source. You can also learn more about this on a webinar I recorded with Megan Krieger and Janet Callahan for Michigan Tech's Husky Bites.

Hopefully, this knowledge is motivating enough to pull in a niece or nephew or two over to the open source way!

Teamwork starts with communication across silos

Developers alone don't create open source projects that meet a variety of needs for a long shelf life; it's time to welcome more roles and talent.
Active listening in a meeting is a skill

Open your job, and you'll open opportunities for software developers to build applications that meet your needs.

About the author

Joshua Pearce
Joshua Pearce - Joshua M. Pearce is the John M. Thompson Chair in Information Technology and Innovation at the Thompson Centre for Engineering Leadership & Innovation. He holds appointments at Ivey Business School, the top ranked business school in Canada and the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Western University in Canada, a top 1% global university. At Western he runs the Free...