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Open source community collaboration strategies for the enterprise

Key open source considerations for businesses, communities and developers.

OSCON’s theme last year was “from disruption to default.” Over the last decade, we’ve seen open source shift from the shadows to the limelight. Today, more businesses than ever are considering the role of open source in their strategies. I’ve had the chance to watch and participate in the transitions of numerous businesses and business units to using open source for the first time, as well as observing how open source strategies evolve for software businesses, both old and new.

In the view of many, open source is the pragmatic expression of the ethical idea of “software freedom,” articulated in various ways for several decades by communities around both Richard Stallman’s GNU Project and the BSD project. The elements of open source and free software are simple to grasp; software freedom delivers the rights to use, study, modify and distribute software for any purpose, and the Open Source Definition clarifies one area of that ethical construct with pragmatic rules that help identify copyright licenses that promote software freedom. But just as simple LEGO bricks unlock an infinite world of creativity, so these open source building blocks offer a wide range of usage models, which are still evolving.

This paper offers some thinking tools for those involved in the consideration and implementation of open source strategies, both in software consuming organizations and by software creators. It aims to equip you with transferrable explanations for some of the concepts your business leaders will need to consider. It includes:

  • A model for understanding the different layers of community that can form around an open source code “commons” and how you should (and should not) approach them.
  • An exploration of the symbiotic relationship of transparency and privacy in open source communities.
  • An explanation of where customer value comes from in enterprise open source, which illuminates the problems with “open core” strategies for communities and customers.
  • A reflection on the principle that can be seen at work across all these examples: “trade control for influence”

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