Open source participation

Note: This is an old post in a blog with a lot of posts. The world has changed, technologies have changed, and I've changed. It's likely this is out of date and not representative. Let me know if you think this is something that needs updating.

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.

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