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Open source is a family

What corporations call a management process problem, in the open source world, may be best seen as a family relations problem. But it's a virtual family.
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Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on
Food Fight!
We often talk about open source communities, built around large projects.

But maybe they're really families. Sometimes they're dysfunctional families.

Here is an example which hit my inbox today. A key function broke when a project updated. The person in charge of that function insisted it works on his machine. But it doesn't work on anyone else's.

Food fight!

I don't mean to pick on Drupal here. I think this is typical in open source development, maybe in all development. Someone is put in charge of something, they make something which seems to work, but it doesn't work in all instances, and if you can't replicate a bug on your own machine how can you squash the thing?

Now what happens in the commercial world, and this is a key point, is that some management attention is paid. People get help. People get moved. People get priorities. People even get fired. This is why many businesses feel it's essential that an open source project have a company "in charge" of it before they trust it.

Because you can't fire a volunteer. In the open source world the answer is to pitch in. But for some users (which the commercial world calls customers) this is fighting alligators -- they are trying to drain a swamp. And if you don't know what you're doing (most users don't know as much as most developers) you can quickly become gator bait.

What corporations call a management process problem, in the open source world, may be best seen as a family relations problem. But it's a virtual family.

So how do we fix it? Now that is something a university could sink its teeth into...oh, the picture comes from the Stanford alumni association.

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