The open source culture of freedom and responsibility at Netflix

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His adventure started in college with Slackware, lead him to Sendmail, then eventually to Reddit, and now his career is streaming at Netflix. Jeremy Edberg is a Reliability Architect at Netflix and will be speaking at DevNation in April 2014 in San Francisco, California.

DevNation is a media sponsor for DevNation, an open source conference, by and for developers across the globe.

We decided to catch up with Jeremy and ask him a few questions in advance of his talk. I'm really looking forward to learning more about the culture of Netflix which Jeremy describes as "Freedom and Responsibly." How that ties to open source? I'm curious. But I get the impression that breaking things and fixing them quickly is part of that culture and might include a "you break it, you fix it (quickly)" kind of attitude.

In this interview, I ask Jeremy how he applies open source outside of technology and what he wishes were more open in this world. His answers might surprise you.

Interview Q&A

How did you got involved with open source?

My first experience with open source was in college (because college is a time for experimentation, right?). It stemmed from me wanting to have a robust operating system with a 32bit kernel, but not wanting to pay for WindowsNT. I picked up a copy of Berkeley's Slackware distribution that was custom created for dorm residents (which of course was only possible because it was open source). The journey just expanded from there. I started working for Berkeley's housing group, where our entire infrastructure was based on open source components like Red Hat, perl, Apache, and so on.

My first full time job was with Sendmail, which was all about open source obviously. They were one of the first businesses trying to make a business out of open source software. It was there that I started using FreeBSD and was actually in charge of the web server for for a while.

After that I would occasionally share code on my website or other places. Once GitHub came along, I tried to put useful utilities that I wrote up there. A few are still there.

My first commit to a public open source project actually came many years later when I made a change to the boto library, which is a Python library used for interacting with Amazon Web Services.

What will you discuss at the DevNation conference (without giving too much away)?

At DevNation, I will be discussing how Netflix's culture of freedom and responsibly intertwines with how we operate our service. I'll be talking about our Service Oriented Architecture and the various steps we take to build anti-fragile systems through constantly trying to break things.

Tell us more about the open source projects you work on at Netflix.

I don't work directly on open source at Netflix, but I work closely with many of the teams that produce open source and help spread the word.

What aspects of open source do you apply to your interests outside of technology?

I'm a big fan of sharing knowledge in general, which is why I like to present at conferences. At the end of the day, open source is all about sharing human knowledge and moving the planet forward, and I think we can do that with a lot more sharing. Also, I recently supported an open source beehive on Indiegogo!

What's one thing in life that you wish were more open?

Medical data (well data in general but specifically medical). If there were a way to safely, securely, and privately share medical data, I think we would make massive strides in early diagnosis and curing disease. Especially if we could combine that with free genome sequencing. Imagine the possibilities if every person's symptoms and ailments, along with their genes, could be crunched through massive data systems? I'm a huge fan of the work that 23andme is doing—I wish the FDA would let them continue.


Jason Hibbets is a Community Director at Red Hat with the Digital Communities team. He works with the Enable Architect, Enable Sysadmin, Enterprisers Project, and community publications.


Are you serious? Netflix?? Show us the code! Show us the Linux client! Show us the actual open community! Netflix runs on Linux and FOSS, and what do we see in return? Not a blessed thing. Cripes.

@Erinn yes, Netflix is serious about OSS. their extensive codebase is posted at and released under Apache v2 license.

Ah, my apologies. Thank you.

I still want a Linux client. I think it's fair to be upset with companies that profit handsomely from Linux and open source, but refuse to support Linux users. Many of whom are contributors to the very projects they build their businesses on.

You seem so have a random named open source project for everything except for actually using your service. This article is crap.

@Dave, this article is not about the Netflix service and was never intended to be.

> this article is not about the Netflix service and was
> never intended to be.

But it *IS* a typical example of a company that is quite happy to *use* open-source, but then turns around and spits on the developers of their tools when they want to use that company's products.

So maybe a different headline would be good? "The open source culture of freedom and responsibility at Netflix" is pretty unambiguous :)

@Erinn: You do know how headlines work and why they are worded a certain way?

Netflix is not a company you associate with open source and whitewashing-openwashing articles like this are nothing more than a fluff job filled with "Why are you so handsome?" type questions.
This read like something I expect to hear ET: "Next, Mary Hart tells us why Open is the new Green. Here on ET."

i have yet to come over from Linux Today links and actually read something worthwhile that isnt PR type writing.
and I dont even set the bar very high. I mean, I read Gizmodo too for pete's sake...

> Netflix is not a company you associate with open source
> and whitewashing-openwashing articles like this are
> nothing more than a fluff job

Well, you have to look at the issue from two aspects. One should applaud companies that use FLOSS and try to give back to the development side. Of course, that is beneficial to them as well since it gives them the benefit of other viewpoints and more eyes on the code, and gives them a larger developer base to hire from.

But these companies *ALSO* have to see FLOSS users as a customer base, one that must have it's needs/wants taken into consideration and addressed. But companies like Netflix would rather you hand them the code then go away. If you have to jump through hoops and hacks to use their products or services, they really couldn't care less. Not the attitude we want to encourage (and that bad attitude from these companies goes well otside FLOSS as well).

'nuff said

It is really weird to read OPEN SOURCE and NETFLIX on the same sentence since Netflix refuses to provide their services to paying costumers on FOSS OS's!....
The fact that Netflix uses FOSS on their servers is no surprise!... even Microsoft does! .... LMFAO! .... : )

I certainly would like to have a Netflix client for Linux Desktop as well...

that said, let's point out that the Netflix client runs on Android and ChromeOS, which are both open source, and both build upon the Linux Kernel.

It is important to keep in mind that the, close to 1 billion, Android devices out there, are indeed part of the Linux ecosystem.

True, Luis, so a Linux client should be rather easy to create. "Ecosystem" doesn't do anything for Linux users. Both Netflix and Google throw bits of code over the fence when they feel like it.

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