Gratitude, freedom and open source

Audrey just wrote a fantastic blog entry about Open Source Bridge, her thoughts about citizenship, and what it means to be a responsible open source citizen.

Yesterday, Forbes published a piece talking about the “open source collaboration gap” and waxed poetic about why it is that corporate IT doesn’t contribute back to open source projects the way that individuals do.

One possible explanation from the article is that there is really a gratitude gap – institutions just can’t feel gratitude or express gratitude the way that individuals can. I kinda like that idea. But paradoxically, Dan Woods then suggests that if we were to just measure the tangible benefits of open source, we’d have our argument for IT contributing back. Well, if the problem is gratitude.. I can’t say that I agree that more metrics are going to fix the collaboration gap.

So, I would try to solve this problem differently. I think that changing collaboration patterns happens one person at a time – with individuals deciding to pursue hobbies and work that interest them, hopefully doing work that matters. To make institutions better open source citizens, they have to change their policies and behaviors so that they encourage, rather than discourage individual contributions.

Encourage individuals to contribute to open source projects from inside large companies, and let individual interest and creativity guide those contributions. The Free Software Foundation was created by a guy who just wanted to solve a problem with a printer. If you run a company, let your employees solve their problems!

That freedom to think, be creative and do something that matters are the parts of my community and my work I most value.

So, if there’s something about free and open source software, your development community, your personal project that inspires you, please submit a proposal to our conference. We want to hear from you!

Photo courtesy of flickr user kalandrakas, under a Creative Commons license.