The following is part of a speech I’ve submitted to next Open Source World Conference in Malaga. If you like it and want to listen to the whole story, vote for the candidate paper “Which open source software for the current decade? Five questions for the future” here.
Communities still play an important role in FLOSS, as they have always fostered the development of open source solutions, even if nowadays they are not always supported by real communities but by single enterprises (especially if you are looking to a commercial OSS solution).
My current experience is related to the “new-generation” of communities, such as OW2 Consortium, Eclipse Foundation and my recent participation in the FLOSS Competence Centers Network. These are meta-organizations involving enterprises, operators, different entities, individuals, which share the common aim to create a reference environment to foster the adoption of open source strategies adopted by the involved members and to cooperate in order to carry out a common approach aiming to increase value for all their members. On the other hand, from a practical point of view, these communities often become only strong marketing tools, whose main interest is influenced by their leading members. The history of these communities shows that a well-established organization and the availability of adequate economic resources are crucial to make them operate efficiently.
Perhaps we should take into consideration the necessity to think about re-establishing a new approach, to be found in the origins of the Open Source communities. A community can stably and constantly grow only if its members are aware of the basic emotional/cognitive relations existing among single individuals or in a group, instead of considering the mere rational element and rough scope. In other words, participating in a community means “loving” it, where the word “love” has to be referred to this specific context. In relation to this, it is important to actively participate in the community, to contribute to its growth and to create trustworthy relations within the community itself and among its members, especially when they are different in nature and dimension. The value brought by these relations can not be quantified, since it develops itself in a complex network. Nevertheless it is essential for a sustainable growth.
On the other hand, reading the 2020 FLOSS Roadmap, proposed at the Open World Forum in Paris, I have learned that the ego-altruism is the key to OSS success, meant as “our ability to act in the interest of others only if this can be of maximum benefit to one self”.
At this point, I would like to ask the following question: Can we consider these organizations as “communities”, if these organizations are not based on that cross-collaboration model anymore that goes beyond the collaborative marketing and promotes an altruistic approach, which is one of the basic values of knowledge society?