What do you do when you’re told to take it very easy, when you’re told to make “slow” a polysyllabic word? If you’re me, and you also have a deep-seated protestant work ethic in you, you struggle. Big time.
Well, that’s what I did for a little while last month, struggling to get past the denial stage. I really didn’t know how to do nothing. Then, come the new year, I had a Road To Damascus experience and then I settled down into an easy rhythm of eat-read-sleep-potter-about-aimlessly, interspersed with the real joy of spending time with my wife and kids. While on the subject of convalescence, my thanks to all who sent me get-well-soon messages. As you can see the messages are working…
Now to the point of this post.
Read the post, it’s worth it. James commented on a perception held by some developers that many opensource communities aren’t particularly welcoming, and that developers are put off joining as a result.
And it made me wonder.
- For every 1000 people who join a community:
- 920 are lurkers, passive observers
- 60 are watchers, active observers capable and willing to kibitz
- 15 are activists, actually doing something
- â€¦and 5 are hyperactive, passionate about what theyâ€™re doing, almost to a point of obsession
And this is what I was musing about.
Does it really matter, the number of people who actively contribute to an opensource project? Is there something about the way opensource communities work, something that will always ensure that a very small number are the hyperactive core?
The more I think about it, the more I believe that there’s something important here. Linus’s Law is about eyeballs, not hands, and it’s for a reason:
- At the heart of every successful opensource community is a small cottage industry. And it is this cottage-industry mindset that makes the community different from other “commercial” ones.
- The core doesn’t have to scale. The core needs to behave in such a way that Linus’s eyeballs are attracted, and this is done by upholding the right values.
- Jerry Garcia and gang only needed to make sure that Grateful Dead concerts had “taping rows”; the number of people who sat in them was not relevant (although they were full). In a weird kind of way, the core is the band. The tapers are the activists. The kibitzers are the roadies and volunteers.
- Together with the audience, they formed a whole and vibrant community.
- Not everyone needs to be on stage for the community to work. In fact there isn’t space.
It is the freedom of access, represented by the taping rows, that really matters. That’s what makes opensource opensource.
Or, to take a chess analogy:
The threat is stronger than the move.