Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Open Source Communities

This is an excellent example of the process of open source software development and distribution. I came across this discussion on a forum at Moodle.org as I was refreshing my memory about how to upload our school courses in bulk. It's something we do once a year and I didn't take notes when I figured it out last summer. Fortunately, not only did my memory get refreshed, but during the year the Moodle community was hard at work improving the utility for it and had something that should prove to work even better than last year. In the process I saw that there are some great examples of how the open source process works in this forum. If you click the link to it and log in as guest you can read through it. It's long but really worth it.
  • There's a positive and helpful tone throughout. Lots of respect given.
  • People are negotiating responsibilities for projects, not in a pushy way ("Has Jeff agreed to maintain this? Jeff?"). When Jeff gives his reasons for not wanting to permanently support it they are very clear and the forum listens.
  • People are getting all sorts of help for big and small problems.
  • There's a big range of experience among the participants and newbies aren't afraid to identify themselves.
  • Towards the end there's a really interesting negotiation about how to distribute the utility and what status to give it so people will have appropriate access. One person recognizes the valuable work being done by contributors and says he'll create an entry in the Modules and Plugins database because he sees "some wonderful stuff get buried in layers and layers of forum discussion." Another person goes one further and prematurely creates a wiki documentation page and heartily apologizes when he is respectfully corrected because some issues have to be worked out before that should happen.

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