The Whole is greater

Richard Fontana has written an article talking about the Harmony agreements using the idea that "input = output" for Open Source projects. I think this is a misunderstanding of Open Source that lies at the foundation of his argument. Motivations of many contributors to Open Source projects are because their contribution enables them to use a large corpus of functionality for relatively small amount of work. Perhaps a better equation would be:

einput = output

Let's look to the example of someone getting a new laptop that would perhaps not have a keyboard driver in Linux. That person would have the choice of writing or paying someone to write that driver for their laptop. What would they get in return? They'd get a fully functioning kernel with world-class functionality across a variety of subsystems. I don't think that we could say that the size of the contribution was equivalent to the amount of benefit.

This is a very good thing. This is what makes Open Source interesting to me. It's a group of people coming together with differing interests and goals with the desire to make something greater than what they could on their own. And there's trade-offs, not everyone can get all of what they want, but they all realize working together makes all of their contributions more noteworthy. The essence of their collaboration, the project itself, is what makes the Open Source great more than any individual commit or contribution.

If our goals are to make Open Source projects better, stronger and more competitive in difficult software world we should focus on how to create better projects instead of prioritizing the desires of small contributors.

Now, because I work for a company that's considered to be pushing CLA's I think it's important to reiterate that the opinions on this blog have always been my own. They always will be. Trust me, I'll get something at canonical.com for official stuff if I ever need it.

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posted on Fri, 08 Jul 2011 at 10:33 | permanent link