Henry Badgery: Hey everybody, I’m Henry Badgery and welcome back for the fourth episode of Open Source For Business, brought to you by OpenTeams – the open source services marketplace where users of open source software can find, vet, and contract with service providers.
In this episode, we talk with Patrick Masson, an expert at developing and managing highly distributed organizations.
Some of the topics that we discuss in this episode include: What is the Open Source Initiative? Open source licensing best practices, biggest mistakes companies make when managing open source communities and, the future of open source software.
So are you ready? Let’s dive right in!
Eunice Chendjou: Hi, my name is Eunice Chendjou and I’m the VP of partners at OpenTeams. Henry and I are super excited to welcome our guest for this episode, Patrick Masson.
The general manager and board director of Open Source Initiative also known as OSI, The Open Source Initiative is a non-profit corporation with global scope raising awareness and advocating for the benefits of open source software. They also focus on building community among groups that are part of the open source movement.
Henry Badgery: Patrick has over 20 years of experience in our seizing leadership positions within higher education and not-for-profit organizations from being the chief technology officer at The University of Massachusetts to working for the office of the president which I thought was very cool.
So, it seems like the professional experience you’ve largely focused on development and management of highly distributed organizations and within this capacity, you then joined Open Source Initiative to help professionalize the organization and also to help build collaborative communities which is great.
We know that Patrick is active on social media on LinkedIn and at Twitter, you can find him @massonpj and that’s double ‘s’ and another thing I wanted to bring up was the Open Source Initiative is now calling for proposals for their state of the source summit which will be held in mid-September.
And I’d also recommend that you check out their new open source technology management micro-courses which are fantastic and they’ve been recently released.
They’re basically for professional development and training around certain open source topics such as community building, contributing to open source, and much more which is very exciting.
So, now that the introduction’s out of the way let’s dive right in so, Patrick thank you so much for joining us.
Patrick Masson: No, thank you so much for having me thanks for the invitation. I think I’m gonna have to capture your audio be your introduction of our two initiatives sounds fantastic we’ll have to use those to help promote the events.
Henry Badgery: Of course you can use it as well and I’m sure we will too but I know that you have a lot of experience within the educational tech community and prior to taking the position at Open Source Initiative you were a likely an advocate of open source which is which is great so could you actually take us back for a second and tell us how you got here today?
Patrick’s Journey To Open Source Initiative
Patrick Masson: Sure, well I actually created or started my career doing medical and scientific illustration and visualization.
So, using CGI or computer-generated images to develop scientific visualizations, modeling visualizations and simulations and a lot of that work obviously was computer-based and I discovered open source through that process and while at UCLA working in that capacity began to realize the value of modifying the tools that we were using for the visualizations and simulations.
And open source software and at the time it was free software the open source software movement had been the OSI hadn’t been created yet and the label open source hadn’t been articulated yet or defined yet and really that experience the ability to discover and modify tools to make them do what I needed them to do and what the university needed them to do was really a powerful concept that really allowed us to focus in on our research efforts.
So, that’s where I really made the transition from someone who pushed ink across the paper to using digital technologies and computers and discovering open source in that way. Then as my career sort of continued, we began to use other open source technologies.
So, I’d always found whether that was for online learning or other administrative tools that there was always an open source option out there and slowly carried those ideas and those values with me as my career progressed into more senior roles within institutions of higher education.
Henry Badgery: Okay, that’s awesome. I’m actually really curious to know what was it like when you made that first contribution what was the perspective of open source than not just for the hackers but for companies?
Patrick Masson: Well, it was much different. So, this was in the mid-90s so early 90s mid-90s.
Eunice Chendjou: How long ago was that?
Patrick Masson: Yes, when I began with open source it wasn’t the default that it is today where the expectation is that there will be an open source tool and the communities I think we’re more like sneaker networks meaning that you wore your you know sneakers like shoes.
You walked across the hallway or down the hall to find your colleagues and peers. We didn’t have the whole infrastructure and community structure that is so common today that allows for open source to propagate and be shared so most of the contributions in the development work were very internal to the organization.
So, in this case, the university that we were working in you worked with colleagues that were working in similar research you worked with other institutions that might have faculty or researchers or staff that were also working and the projects were really small projects dedicated to the unique set of tools that you needed.
Of course there are things like you know those broader the lamp stack was becoming popular at the time as an alternative to sort of traditional windows implementations.
But it wasn’t like it was today. There was a real challenge around the fear uncertainty and doubt or fun of open source. In fact, I can remember standing up an FTP server and installing fedora and the university network administrator sent me a nice email wondering what I was doing with this rogue implementation of an FTP server and which sounds crazy today.
But it was a much different environment where contributions and development work was highly specialized and localized to meet individual needs for specific projects.
Henry Badgery: Okay and when did you witness the transition from sort of yes like you said the fear uncertainty and doubt when did that start to change whereby now we’re getting companies contributing everywhere all around the world and it’s just become the norm.
So when did you see that change and what does that look like?
Changing Attitudes Towards Open Source For Enterprises
Patrick Masson: I think well so, I will say again go back a little history. So, that was the free software movement and then it wasn’t until 1998 you know 15 maybe even almost 20 years later that the Open Source Initiative and the open source software movement took off.
So, or was at least introduced so in 1998 that was probably one key point in time where free software advocates got together and recognized the opportunities that were available through net-scape communicators releases open source software.
So, a little history here is the idea and the opportunities of mass collaboration made available through free software and the new public the general public license from the free software foundation created an opportunity for folks to meet and get together and develop software and Linux of course is the best example of that.
And the idea was well, how can we take those benefits of the mass collaboration of the many eyeballs make all bug shallow sort of idea and introduce that to business. So, there’s a popular book at the time and probably might still be ‘the cathedral in the bazaar’ which talked about the development process that the Linux community undertook that allowed for somebody with an idea and to gain a global audience and contributors.
And that book the cathedral of the bazaar and the resulting discussions that came out got into the hands of the net-scape folks and net-scape at the time was battling Microsoft explorer for browser dominance.
And net-scape decided that they would take communicator and release that as it wasn’t really called open source at the time but release it under a license that allowed for distribution, customization, use, and reuse.
Essentially the software freedom to use, modify and redistribute the software and taking advantage of that opportunity a lot of folks from the free software movement got together they met in Palo alto and came up with the idea of open source that label was created by Christine Peterson during a meeting related to the net-scape communicator release and from that meeting the OSI was formed and also something called the open source definition.
So, the open source definition are at the time it was nine criteria but one more was added later and these criteria were used to assess whether or not an open software license allowed for software freedom.
Again the ability to use, modify and redistribute the software and then using that open source definition it was licenses could be identified and there were several the BSD and the GPL and so on.
Other examples the MIT were identified as licenses that could be applied to software and then allowed for those benefits again of mass collaboration around software projects. So, that was the sort of enabling activity the creation of licenses that businesses, projects, foundations could apply to their software to create the network effect or to gain the benefits of the network effect of maps collaboration.
So, that was the enabling factor the trigger that all this happened so, the initial response was the side of well what happens if you have open source software and everyone can see the code it must be insecure.
Who do you call if it’s built by amateurs and you know hackers in their basement? How good can it be? If you know these are the entire sort of whom do you call in two o’clock in the morning when you need support? You know you need a professional service level agreement to ensure that your core infrastructure is stable and have the support that it’s needed so the first 10 years I’d say of the OSI was really dedicated to advocating for the use of open source software and highlighting its viability as a community.
No, really mass collaboration around projects is a legitimate way to build software and it is quality. Yes, this is you know comparatively equal to and maybe better than existing proprietary options.
And then about 2004, I think is when we really started seeing especially with the emergence of the web in the use of open source tools to enable startups and companies to quickly without going through the procurement process and all the other sort of overhead associated with developing infrastructure.
Open source software really allowed for the quick and easy way to build a company, build services online so the development of the web and the and more and more activities and services products available through web technologies gave it that foothold that that then became what we see now.
So, I think 2004 was another pivotal point, and then finally you know maybe now I don’t know when everyone sort of it became the default but when you see Microsoft loves Linux now and you see Google’s investment and Facebook built on open source and all these companies.
Now I just think it’s become the default so, that was a very long answer.
Henry Badgery: No, that answer was amazing I think it’s probably one of the richest and insightful answers that I’ve ever got when a sort of asking the question what is the history how did it change, what did it look like and that was fantastic because I think just for the benefit of those listening but also to myself it’s that was a very unique answer that just it makes no so much sense.
It was almost as though it’s just that grey area that needed to be defined for businesses to go okay we’re ready to step in and help drive this movement so everyone anyone who’s basically been involved in open source they would have heard of the Open Source Initiative and as you said they’re a steward of the Open Source Initiative but for those listening what is Open Source Initiative? And what role does it play amongst the wider open source community?
Open Source Initiative
Patrick Masson: So, the OSI is a non-profit organization that was founded back in 1998. So, that same meeting that led to the label open source and the identity or the definition being created that same meeting resulted in the creation, formation of the OSI and our mission is to raise awareness and adoption of open source software.
We’re primarily known for something called the license review process as I mentioned the definition and licenses that were originally created back in 1998 have been added too through the license review process so what happens is any organization or person can submit a license to the to the OSI.
That license then goes through a process where it’s peer-reviewed publicly reviewed to assess whether or not it conforms to.
The open source definition those 10 criteria that have to be permitted or enabled through the license and then that license become OSI approved. And we then say that you can call your software open source software because it carries an OSI approved license on it.
So, that’s what we’re primarily known for but enabled in order to do that we have several initiatives that help to raise support of open source software, its benefits and those range from educational activities. So, as you mentioned one of the latest ones is a professional development and graduate program with Brandeis University.
So, that’s a formal educational initiative we also do things we have a great program called flush desktops for kids. Which actually takes laptop and desktop computers that would be normally cycled out of you know sort of thrown away and give them the students to rebuild and they get to learn how the hardware works and they rebuild the machines and they install all open source software on them and then they get to take the computers home for cheap.
That’s one of the students said that once she said ‘I can’t you mean I get to take this home for cheap so I don’t have to give it back?’ So, those are educational initiatives. We also work with government and companies to help them engage authentically with open source software one of the big issues we’re seeing now is something called what we call faux source or open washing.
So, faux source is software that’s released with a non-OSI approved license and the folks that create that software call it open source. But it doesn’t carry all of the benefits of open source software so that’s open source like f-a-u-x so get it.
And open watching is when companies through marketing and promotional initiatives try to orient themselves within the community as an open community. But they’re really just using it as a way to sell their products or they’re not authentically engaged.
So, that’s a big area that we’re focused on right now again that authenticity in engaging with the open source community. We do conferences we have a membership program for individuals and also for non-profit organizations so, our affiliate members include deviant, Drupal, word press you know a lot of the platforms that people probably recognize and then other organizations with similar missions and visions around software freedom and the internet so Wikimedia and Mozilla are examples of those.
So, those affiliate memberships help us to by working with us they add credibility to the OSI mission. They add a voice; they extend our community toward our mission as well. So, I guess that’s a pretty big picture of the OSI in terms of what we do there’s more but you probably don’t have enough minutes from the day to hear it all.
Eunice Chendjou: So, Patrick I know you were speaking a lot about the different services that Open Source Initiatives offer, what I really want to know is what is your pitch to companies you know to encourage them to become a member of the Open Source Initiative or even to go through your license review process.
Can you tell us a little bit about what your pitch is to different companies and you know why should any startup or individual or even company sign up for your membership and go through your licensing processes?
Patrick Masson: Sure so, I should probably clarify the OSI’s membership is available to individuals. So, I hope both of you will join or maybe you already are members and shame on me for not knowing that.
So, there’s an individual membership program then there’s also an affiliate membership program associate members are non-profit organizations educational institutions and user groups so again Mozilla, Drupal, word press, python, software foundation those types of organizations and those are only members.
We have corporate sponsors who are organizations that recognize the important role that the OSI plays in not only raising awareness and adoption of open source but that work around license review as the steward of the open source definition our advocacy work with government and companies and other institutions and organizations.
So, it’s a tough pitch because as a sponsor it’s really recognizing that role and the companies that are current sponsors don’t get anything for their contribution directly.
We’re a non-profit this is a straight contribution that they provide they don’t get a seat on the board; they don’t get to elect the board directors it’s really their recognition that without the OSI the open source software movement as we know it today would not exist.
That there needs to be an independent third party whose mission is to protect, promote and protect open source software. So, if there’s a company that’s interested in supporting the OSI because they want to you know, get our membership contact list or have us tweet about them or be part of their marketing campaign then that’s probably not an organization that is going to understand the true value and importance of our work.
And of course we recognize our sponsors we thank them for their support we engage with them they’re not only valuable to us for those direct contributions but they’re a huge resource for us to be able to connect with other companies around.
Policy and practice and principles of open source it’s great to be able to tap a large company that has a great reputation for working in open source tap them on the shoulder and have them introduce us to maybe folks that we need to talk to about an issue or if there is an issue within the open source community to get them to help us raise attention and address the issue.
So, we definitely try to work with them when we can but again our activity is wholly independent of any outside of corporate influence or donations or contributions that just doesn’t play a part.
So, when I make the pitch to companies about why they should support us it’s really, here are the activities that we do the initiatives that we have to do on behalf of the open source community of which you are part of and if you think they’re important we need your help to do it.
It’s I guess you could sort of say it’s I mean this is probably I would never say this to a company but it’s sort of like the tax that that they pay to ensure that the roads are open for their cars to drive their delivery trucks to the lot to drive on make sure that the fire department shows up if their warehouse is on fire that sort of thing.
So, you know and we’ve had tremendous success with that. I’m humbled and tremendously gratified by the outreach that we get from companies who will just contact us out of the blue and shame on me for not having you know, the resources and time and to have reached out and contacted these people first.
But often we’re contacted by organizations that realize how heavily they’re invested in open source how much of their core infrastructure? How much of their products or services rely on open source?
And if we didn’t have clear licensing and standards around licensing then a lot of the work that they do and a lot of the tools that they rely on simply wouldn’t be available to them. So, it’s always gratifying to get those contacts coming toward us to support us.
Eunice Chendjou: Well, awesome thank you so much for really giving a good overview of why OSI exists and importance it has to different companies but since we are on the sexy topic the ones that I hear a lot while talking with different people in the open source community or even users of open source one thing that always comes up is ‘licensing’.
So, I really what I want to know is what are some of the licensing best practices for users of open source and really all the things around licensing and licenses in open source community?
Open Source Licensing Best Practices
Patrick Masson: So, Eunice you must be hanging out with a pretty dull crowd if licensing is the hot topic. It’s usually not it’s funny Josh Simmons who’s our president of the board currently has a phrase that I’m probably not going to say it exactly right but he often says ‘the OSI does the janitorial work of open source’ meaning that somebody’s got to come in here and you know make sure things are you know clean and working properly and that sort of thing.
So, some of the best practices you know it’s broad and one of the things that for some reason seems to be controversial currently is the use of the open source label. So, we’re pretty adamant that only software distributed with an OSI approved license which doesn’t mean that 11 people in some room somewhere approved this license; it actually means that it went through a license review process with over 500 people who can participate in reviewing that license.
So, while its OSI approved the OSI is facilitating the license review process and then based on the feedback of that community we’re approving or not approving or sending it back for modification. So, that it truly is a consensus of the community on whether or not this is an open source license and again whether or not it complies with the open source definition.
So, there’s because open source the label is now so commonly used to describe all sorts of things you know open source textbooks and open source hardware and open source I even got an email once from somebody who wanted to create open source beer.
So, I wanted to know if they could use the open source label to describe beer. So, that is sort of an issue that’s come up about well open source you know, and the OSI doesn’t have a trademark on the two words open source that phrase.
That phrase actually even more history goes back to open source intelligence which was a technique used in world war II to assess the effectiveness of military activity during world war II.
So, could you derive any information that was freely available by observing your enemy in the field? So, that open source label actually exists before open source software but it has become a standard a term of art that is recognized within technology and software industries as software that carries an OSI approved license.
So, when you say open source software there’s a general understanding across business and government and projects and developers that are sort of what it means. So, helping first of all startups and developers and new projects understand that often on get-hub we’ll see people start their own projects they’ve started a new open source project but it turns out they’ve created their own license.
Or they’ve taken the MIT license and modified it for something and usually it’s, right now there are a lot of discussions around ethical licensing. So, what is the role and responsibility of projects to ensure that those using the software align with social conventions and ethical issues that they’re concerned about?
So, the actual OSI or the open source definition doesn’t allow for putting limits on use or users. So, those two things are in conflict the desire to ensure a healthy and safe community of contributors and users where you mandate that you can’t use it for military use, you can’t use it for illegal activities, you have you can’t use it for things that might hurt the environment.
Unfortunately in our fact we say evil people can use open source software so there are two criteria in the open source definition that don’t allow for discrimination against users or fields of endeavor.
So, anyone can use it for anything and by allowing that it unfortunately allows people to use it and probably things that most people wouldn’t like. So, that’s part of the discussions and principles and practices that we often work with understanding what the open source label means there’s also you know we get a lot of questions about well what’s the best license?
What license should we pick? So, we never get in that discussion. Licenses tend to be constitutions of communities; they serve as a foundation for how the project that picks the license wants to operate? How it wants to engage with its contributors? What its expectations are for the community of users and contributors. So, that’ll be different and there’s no, that’ll be different with every community.
So, there’s no right answer. What’s important is that people pick a license that reflects how they want to develop their software how they want to engage with the community and that they understand the opportunities or barriers to different licenses through compliance with those licenses, the terms of those licenses.
So, in that respect what we do is we try to provide educational you know resources and that is without a doubt the number one question we get from our, everything. From our social media accounts to our direct emails to conferences and when I speak anywhere are questions about the nuances of licenses, which license is compatible with that license, what’s the compliance issues associated with this license?
Which license should I pick? What’s the best license? Those sorts of things and we don’t tell anyone that we just try to help them make a decision that they’re most comfortable with.
Henry Badgery: Okay, that’s great and what are some of the best practices for companies that want to make sure that they’re compliant that they’re not going against any of these licenses, what do you say like a first step is for a company that would like to do that?
Patrick Masson: Well, you know unfortunately it’s going to depend a lot on the resources of that company but obviously you’ll want to engage with a local, qualified, legal representative or hire them if you can, depending on the size of the company.
But you really need to engage with a qualified attorney whose experience with open source software you know there’s all sorts of issues whether you know you can be an end user where you’re just downloading the software and what are the compliance issues with that.
And generally if you’re just using that computer on your, the software on your computer or within your organization it’s really there’s not a lot to worry about you’re just using it as an end user.
Well, what if I make a modification to that software just because I make a modification on my software that I’m using on my laptop or within my company you know there’s no real requirements to share that or you know I can still use that as just for my own use.
When you begin to contribute to a project not just to run it internally but you want to send something and contribute it back to or create something and send it back to the community that is running the project.
You might run into issues around contributor license agreements or how do you license your work so that it’s compatible with the existing license of the main project. So, again you’ll want to reach out to someone who can give you legal advice on that often the projects will have advice on how to best license your works if they have a CLA which gets involved with that.
Then there’s creating your own project so a company might say oh we’ve had really successful, we’ve been successful in running open source software locally, modifying it for local use, contributing it back.
Now the question is maybe we want to start up our own project or maybe there’s a project that we’ve been working on that we’re forking and creating a new you know utility or tool or feature that’s sort of an independent thing.
So, then again what license do you want to pick? How those licenses align with or comply with your existing IP other software that you might be including with this. So, having a licensed compliance group is very important one resource for a startup or you know, smaller company or even a project would be to seek out organizations that help in this way that could be through a foundation.
So, if you have a project and you’re not sure about licensing or you’re a small company or startup that that doesn’t have the resources to go hire a bunch of lawyers or even contract with them you know think about reaching out and even joining a foundation.
So, depending on the technology you’re using you might want to join the apache foundation or the python software foundation or software conservancy you know, those organizations will have resources that can help you and your project or your company best interact with and take advantage of open source licenses.
Henry Badgery: Okay, that was great. Yes I think there’s definitely still a lot of work to go because it’s just and even just open source is growing by the day and it’s growing so incredibly fast that it’s difficult to keep up.
Well with the best practices particularly when it comes to licensing but I now like to shift the focus a little bit and focus on something that you said earlier that I found really interesting you said that you believe that proprietary sorry open source is better than proprietary software?
Open Source v.s. Proprietary Software
Patrick Masson: I said it could be.
Henry Badgery: It could be. So, could you please explain why, is that the case? Why do you believe that to be the case?
Patrick Masson: So, first of all as someone working in open source software for 20 years I can guarantee you that, I have created terrible open source software. There is plenty of bad open source software just because its open source just because it carries an OSI approved license doesn’t mean the software is good.
That’s an intellectual property and licensing issue not a quality of code or features parity with other things that’s completely different so there are like I said. So, there’s just because it’s open source doesn’t mean it’s better than it’s you know a similar proprietary tool that’s out there and I think that organizations should use the same due diligence in identifying and implementing open source software as they would proprietary software.
The real challenges and it’s getting better but this used to be a challenge probably around you know 2005, 2010 was as organizations like governments that have very strict procurement processes and businesses that that have internal controls around contracting and software procurement.
How do you include open source software in that analysis right so if you put out an RFP or an RFI request for information requests for proposals around software you’re probably not going to get responses from open source projects because they don’t have pre-sales teams and sales teams that go out and answer RFP and sales people that show up to you know talk about their the proprietary or the open source software just like they would with proprietary software.
So, the process for including open source software as part of the decision making is critical and then you might have to edit this out because I don’t remember, I’ve lost track of the questions specifically.
Henry Badgery: That’s all right, let me just write down the time quickly so, the question why do you think yeah the open source is better proprietary?
Patrick Masson: Right so, in the case of procurement it’s just being equal we just want equal footing we’re not saying it’s better because it’s open source or that because it’s proprietary it’s inherently worse.
We just want to be ensured that organizations understand that that they can be equal and possibly better so, that for their benefit and the open source community they’re looking at all options.
So, the other aspect would be and I do think that the development methodology that’s enabled through massive collaboration and you know the many eyeballs make all bug shallow I think that is a better development methodology.
So, incremental iterative development and you’re seeing that in project management paradigms like agile development and devops and things like that where it’s sort of recognized the small next best step and iterative development is sort of the way to go and open source licensing enables that.
Because you’re making the entire software source available for people to modify on the fly, they don’t you know, it’s not locked down to just the 100 people 50 people 10 people within the development group of a company.
It’s being exposed to everyone you’re getting more input people coming in and testing it against different sets of criteria and parameters against different tools and technologies. So, you’re just getting more people who can tell you whether or not there’s an issue and that’s only half of the benefit me telling you there’s a problem is great but you’re also exposing the project to allow more people to tell you how to fix the problem.
So, you could be working with a small group of people who are working in a closed environment and they might find the problem but they don’t have the experience or expertise to perhaps solve the problem.
So, again by exposing this project through open source licenses that allows anyone to use and modify the software you’re getting a much broader access to experts and so the pace of development increases, the quality of the software increases and these are benefits that are only possible through open source development.
So, I wouldn’t say that open source software is inherently better but I would say open source development is inherently better.
Henry Badgery: Okay, that was great because I think it’s also the case like you were saying the fact that you’ve got community you have group think you have thousands of people around the world working on one project.
It’s just very hard for a company to be able to compete with that and that’s what I think made this software movement open source software movement so powerful and swift in growth these days.
But one thing I wanted to ask is if not all open source communities obviously benefit from that but I know that you’ve had a lot of experience both building and fostering open source communities and I also know that one of the core like you mentioned one of the core services and activities of Open Source Initiative is to build and engage with open source communities.
So, I wanted to ask with your wealth of experience in that domain what are the biggest mistakes that you’ve seen companies make when both building and managing open source communities?
Mistakes Companies Make
Patrick Masson: There’s a few, I think the two that come to mind first are the sort of throw to build it throw it up the wall got an open source license on it and the community that just feels it’s so awesome will just start joining us.
And participating because it’s such a great tool and don’t organizations want to be or don’t people and projects want to be affiliated with us in some way. So, this sort of idea that if you build that they will come sort of thing and we’re leveraging our name as big company X and so of course everyone’s going to want to help us and then the other one is a big company or government or you know, someone some organization that’s benefited from high profile or good reputation.
Comes in and thinks that they can sort of direct things we’re here now we’ll take care of it and those two are probably the most common issues and there’s a little spin-offs of things that happen related to those two.
But that idea that that all you have to do is put an open source license on it and everybody will want to come and give you their free labor isn’t that awesome there’s one problem and then the other is all right we’ll just show up and we’ll give you know, a hundred thousand dollars to the project.
And we’ll devote three developers and of course now we’ll decide the roadmap for the project, we’ll decide the, you know direction of the project and the features and the governance and the decision making will all be ours because we’re awesome.
Henry Badgery: Big brother steps in.
Patrick Masson: Exactly so, those are the two biggest issues so helping organizations understand that why those aren’t appropriate and they don’t yield what you think they will.
That that’s from the big picture for smaller communities and projects it’s again about community development and actually it’s ensuring that they’re actually creating channels for people who want to participate.
To participate in any way they want to participate so, if I and I think most people know this it’s just maybe they don’t appreciate the time and energy and dedication it takes. Right, it’s more than putting up a mailing list and a slack I would not you know slack scrape it’s not open source but so, a rocket chat somewhat open source version but it’s more than you know putting your stuff on get-hub and you know and it’s more than just technology related opportunities and coding related opportunities.
It’s community development and marketing and fundraising and it’s and it’s not just taking contributions but converting and incentivizing and facilitating new leaders within the project.
You can’t do it all maintainer burnout is a real thing where people feel committed to their project and it’s this double-sided sort of story where it’s like ‘I can’t do it all right now they want me to do a conference or now I have to deal with licensing and now I have to I just you know I just want to develop the software’, well then you have to be willing to give that up and you have to be willing to establish practices and expectations and maybe not policies but sort of common awareness around the culture that you want to create within your project.
So, that other people can step in with their areas of interest and expertise to participate to make the price because those folks want the projects to succeed as well and if you’re not giving them that opportunity then you can’t do it all.
And your projects will sort of be doomed through the sort of you know, I know if it’s a benevolent dictator it’s sort of a clueless hoarder I don’t know if there’s a name for the person who won’t give up control. Maybe that will we’ll call him a clueless hoarder from now on that sounds very derogatory though that’s something that’s probably not nice.
Eunice Chendjou: That’s awesome, yeah I definitely think this is some of the biggest mistake even with my little experience in the open source community and these are some of the big things that I’ve seen over the last year and a half of me being part of this of the open source community.
So, I really want to talk about the future and of open source and where we think its heading. What are you the most excited about with regards to the future of open source?
The Future Of Open Source
Patrick Masson: I am, two things and they’re on the different I don’t know if they’re on, it’s not fair to say they’re different spectrums, different ends of the spectrum. But I think that there’s a real appreciation and investment by all organizations who understand the importance of open source in creating formal legitimate you know, sometimes they’re called OSPOS or open source programs offices.
So, but formalizing the role within their organizations of the role to enable, create, distribute, participate, engage with open source from a company-wide perspective it’s no longer one part of the organization.
You know, it started off as the rogue developer who installed something on their desktop stuffed under their desks that nobody knew about then it got to well maybe there’s some part of the data center that yeah they’re doing something over there it is open source it seems to be working.
And now it’s to the point where no, this is core to our company core, to our business core, to our government activities. So, we’re seeing all sorts of formalization around that so whether it’s the EU and the work that they’re doing now around standards of open source.
Whether it’s companies that are creating OSPOS there’s a great project the OSI’s been involved with and some exciting announcements will be coming out soon around introducing OSPOS to institutions of higher education.
So, education, why aren’t universities creating open source program offices? When you think of all the intellectual property a lot of open source software comes out of universities, colleges and universities and research activities so why isn’t that something that’s more formalized within institutions of higher education?
Same with government we also have a public policy group that’s helping we have a director of public policy who’s working a lot with the EU and the European commission on standardizing open source and creating open source policy. So, that is very exciting it’s like okay it’s not just now recognized.
It’s becoming part of the day-to-day operations and expectations. So, that’s the one side the other thing I’m but this is also very scary it’s the absolute incredible growth and engagement across all I don’t know if they’re sectors or communities or populations or you know around the globe where we are seeing highly motivated people working through self-discovery of projects and I mean startups and things like that you know I’m old enough to remember the dot-com boom in the late 90s and things so it’s not like there hasn’t always been entrepreneurial activities.
But the tone, the driver is different it’s so much more about community and collaboration yes, it’s great that we all make a buck or yes, it’s great that we can start up a business but at the end of the day I’m impressed by so many people that are coming to us and I’m meeting through my work with the OSI from around the world.
The reason I’m doing this is because of the community it creates and the ability to collaborate with all these smart people around the world doing that have a shared interest and it’s so motivational I just leave every time I go to a comp well I don’t go to many conferences anymore this year for obvious reasons.
But every time I would go someplace or even today and whatever type of exchange that you can have whether it’s through online activities or emails or discussion forums.
Whatever it might be that’s the thing that I’m just, it just seems like there’s a, that is not terrible a better group of people getting more involved for better reasons in open source.
I’m not really that interested in the VC folks who are looking for the next open source super company yeah I don’t really care about that that’s not exciting that’s not interesting it’s just applying old sort of business models and hacks that are outdated and not really that helpful to really only help a select few.
What I’m seeing now are people who just have altruistic you know vision of a shared co-creation of new opportunities that everyone of course is going to be entitled to participate in. It’s such a different attitude and it’s fantastic it’s the most motivational thing that I have seen.
Eunice Chendjou: That’s awesome, that’s really awesome and I think you have said it all but I really want to conclude with some really strong actionable items.
What do you think are some best action items that the people listening today can take to drive change as individuals or within the organizations so that it helps to what open source just becoming more friendly you know so, we don’t have to keep having conversations around open source any different challenges that we are facing as we grow within the open source industry? I won’t even say community anymore.
Becoming More Open Source-Friendly
Patrick Masson: Well, I guess that depends on you know the perspective of the person. So, if you’re interested in joining a project I have my son is a junior in college and of course I’m beating him over the head about how awesome open source, he’s a computer science major and beating over the head about open source.
But he’s intimidated you know there’s the imposter syndrome and things like that which are totally real and I think it takes a lot of courage especially if you don’t fit the stereotype of an open, you know if you I can see whether that stereotype might be that you’re not an expert in coding or you come from a culture or background that’s not like the rest of the group.
Or there’s all sorts of those barriers and it’s probably very easy to say just you know join anyway but I think you know there has to be a way to help people who might not fit the typical you know, vision or stereotypes associated with participation open source.
And so, then that puts the responsibility on the community so, you know, actionable items are creating communities that welcome all participants because you never know where that next best idea is going to be allow for leadership and activities to come from anywhere.
Don’t pick your favorites and create channels that really just only allow certain people to participate. You know, so I think that’s sort of the project level on both the project side and the individual computer contributor side.
Best practices from you know larger organizations is you know it’s going to be a lot more work but definitely formalize open source on your understanding and participation in open source communities.
You know, it can’t be run by that person over there that is always done it just because you know they have to be given organizational authority and you know decision-making authority to effect change. So, you know those are those are sort of big picture items small things you can do right now, you can join the OSI as an individual member.
So, go to ‘opensource.org/joinormembers’ and you can join. We have student memberships complementary memberships, regular memberships you can get your project to join as an affiliate member. So, you know that’s these are all selfish OSI things by the way.
But I think on going back again I’m still struck by the difficulty it is for those who are motivated to find ways to join and participate you know nothing sadder to me is you never know where the next great contribution is going to come from if you don’t give somebody an opportunity to contribute.
So, the best thing that you can do for your project is create mechanisms that allow for what at the end of the day is the core value of open source the mass collaboration the network of sets that’s enabled through open source. And if you’re not fully exploiting that then you’re not using open source to its maximum potential.
Henry Badgery: Yeah, that was a fantastic way to end it and then thank you so much I’ve really enjoyed this episode and it’s been great hearing all your insights. So, thank you very much Patrick.
Patrick Masson: Well, thank you so much for the invitation. It’s always a great to talk to folks that are committed I know OpenTeams is committed to increasing the use and contributions of, I mean these are exactly the type of organizations.
We want to support we want every of course we want all software to be open source but we want all businesses that are that are working around open source to be successful. That is truly our mission to and seeing the works that open source is doing is great and if we can help in any way let us know because we definitely want you all to be successful.
Henry Badgery: Well, thank you very much for that it seems like our mission’s almost directly aligned because our goal really is to help people build their open source business.
So, for those of you listening thank you very much for listening I hope you enjoyed this episode if you did like what you saw and you’re watching this on YouTube then please give the video like and subscribe to be able to see some more content like this in the future.
And if you’re listening to the podcast then please leave a review that really will help us and let us know what you think.
So, next episode we’ll be talking with Wenjing Chu the head of open source and research at the future way technologies. So, until then stay safe everyone, thank you very much.
Patrick Masson: Bye.
Eunice Chendjou: Bye.