Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

24 Jun 2010, 15:40 p.m.

The Second Step: HOWTO encourage open source work at for-profits

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

At the excellent Open Source Bridge conference earlier this month, people seemed to enjoy my talk. The one-liner:

Even at pro-FLOSS businesses, logistical obstacles and incentive problems get in the way of giving back. I’ll show you how to fix that.

My session notes are now available. If you were there, please feel free to clarify them and add your notes or links to your notes elsewhere.

The very short version: a company does not upstream its patches, even though it should for long-term practical reasons, because of problems in four general categories. The company might lack a FLOSS culture. There might be legal confusion about what employees are allowed to do, and how to get permission. The project management workflow and timelines might not allow time for proper engineering. And the external project might have a terrible UI for new contributors.

Once you abstract these categories away from the specific problem of accidentally hoarded code rotting away, you see that they also apply to other problems of the type "I really know I should be doing foo but haven't gotten around to it."

I also added notes from my lightning talk on Thoughtcrime Experiments, in which I inadvertently invented a new social media marketing technique.