Open source participation

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I'm on the mailing lists for OZ and OE because I own a Sharp Zaurus 5600 and at some point I'll have some time to play with it enough to get it to the point where it helps me in my daily life. I haven't had any time to devote to it in the last four months though, which is unfortunate.

Anyhow, someone on the openzaurus-users mailing list complained that there's no support for the 5600 to which Michael (one of the three and a half people who worked on OZ) responded, expressing a lot of frustration, then said this (and I'm quoting him slightly out of context):

   And just to prevent misunderstandings, I don't want to be thanked for
   all the work... I don't want anything at all except participation. I
   want to work in a team bringing the community forward - I want people to
   realize, they're not helping _us_ to produce a great handheld operating
   system, they're helping _themselves_ and by doing that, helping each
   other. After all, this is what I thought was open source.

On all of the projects that I've been a part of or led, that's exactly what I hoped and prayed would happen. I have a couple of projects right now where there are people interested, but nothing is happening because I'm not driving it [1]. Those projects will die because I'm just one man--I can't drive all projects I'm involved in unless I quit my job (which is the only income stream I have).

I'm not sure that's what open source is. But I wish more community sprung around open source projects. My experience has been that people just want the features they want. They're demand-oriented consumers and it boggles their minds that I haven't coded up their favorite feature. It's so ego-centric. There's a big world out there! 6.5 billion different lists of favorite features!

[1] I'm not even a great driver--I'm ok and I get things moving forward, but I certainly lack the finesse that I've seen other project drivers use. For example, Bruce Perens guiding UserLinux is riveting. I suspect that I drive through sheer force of will rather than sheer leadership--which doesn't really do anyone much good.

Want to comment? Send an email to willkg at bluesock dot org. Include the url for the blog entry in your comment so I have some context as to what you're talking about.