Friday, January 16, 2009

Open Source: It's All About The Community

I wanted to take a look at an open source project/product yesterday evening (I'm not going to name them for obvious reasons). In order for me to look at anything other than marketing-ware provided by the company looking to commercialize it, I had to:
  • Register with an account in their Confluence instance.
  • Run through an email validation step so that they were sure I gave a real email address.
  • Register again, giving them my full contact details (name, email address, and a valid phone number), a company name, company sector, and title.
  • I then got an email from their system that they had automatically added my email address to a mailing list so that they could, presumably, spam me.
  • I expect a phone call from a sales rep any day now (or else why would they have required a valid phone number in the first place?).
Once I had done this, I could look at their documentation. Yay!

Next step: I want to grab it and take a look. Oops, only binary download format is a Windows-only installer (seriously? You couldn't just do a tarball? I don't run Windows. At all.).

Okay, so maybe I can take a look at their source code quickly. Oops, no online source code browsing. Rather, I had to do a search on their confluence, and then that showed me how to do an SVN pull.

Really? You think this is the way to build a community? By putting this many barriers in front of someone who just wants to have a poke around?

A firm like this, to me, would be much better suited as a closed-source, source-code-available firm (and lots of firms do this; for example, at an Enterprise price point, you get the source code to most Atlassian products, which helped me to debug some problems I had with an early Bamboo 2.0 build). Building a community requires that you be more than willing to actually embrace Open Source as a way of life, with an emphasis on the Open side.

They should be doing everything they can to get code in the hands of developers, and to get binaries in the hands of potential evaluators. They shouldn't make me feel like I'm going to have to talk to an Enterprise Sales Guy just to see what their system actually does.

Focus on the community and the rest should follow. Don't make people feel like Open Source is just a marketing angle.
blog comments powered by Disqus