The community wars

The community wars

Summary: Your decisions on how to spend your developer time will decide who wins this war, and who falls by the wayside.

TOPICS: Open Source

developer community, cartoon illustration from devicescape.comThe struggle to build open source communities is, I'm convinced, one of the biggest stories of 2008. (This illustration is selling the Devicescape developer community.)

The trend began two years ago when major projects broke away from Sourceforge and began launching their own forge sites. This began an arms race to see who could build the best new community features into those sites.

That arms race continues, but this is only one dimension in what I'm calling the community wars. You may see war as a misnomer. But I use the word deliberately, just as I use the phrase War Against Oil deliberately, to imply its urgency and priority.

In both cases this is a struggle where there can be many winners, starting with Web users. We're getting many powerful applications, in jig time, because we're building from an open source base. Improved community features add a further accelerant to the process.

At stake in this struggle is, frankly, you. If you can code, if you've got ideas, if you even have a Clue, vendors are fighting for your time and attention as never before.

Open source does more than cut marketing costs to the bone, distribution to nothing, and revenues to a trickle. It makes companies highly dependent on the kindness of strangers, to improve their offerings, evangelize, and provide direction.

But this is always a two-way street. You, as a developer, may have economic drives of your own, or non-economic ones. What do you want, and how can you get it faster -- your vendor is more anxious than ever before to know.

Google is certain the key to success is in APIs. Smaller competitors, like Appcelerator, see it in independence and community tools. Eclipse sees strength in alliances, and Sun in strong products.  

Howard Dean, 2003The key question for everyone is where you see it. Your decisions on how to spend your developer time will decide who wins this war, and who falls by the wayside.

Someone from another time said it best. You have the power.

In this case you really do.[poll id=81]

Topic: Open Source

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  • community building

    The difficulty in cultivating a thriving community is significant. It's an interesting challenge because a typical business person would try to delegate that task to the marketing dept, but traditional marketing departments will surely fail at energizing the community members. The developers don't want to be marketed to... they want to be engaged.

    Hence the new title that we're seeing these days: VP of Community