Flashback @ Open Source Summit Europe

Jono Bacon at the Open Source Summit in Prague

I attended the Open Source Summit Europe a couple of weeks ago and thought I’d give a short summary of my key takeaways.

The summit is a yearly event arranged by the Linux Foundation and has a quite larger North American version which I have yet to attend. New for this year was the addition of the Open Community Conference where attendees share best practices and ideas on how to build successful and sustainable communities. What I liked most of the summit and conference was the people and the friendly and open atmosphere that surrounded. I had some great conversations on how companies work with their communities and the though-process behind, which gave me valuable input and data for my research. I also gave a presentation together with Nithya Ruff at Comcast Cable on our research collaboration. I will cover this in a future post and instead go through some of my favorite talks that were given.

Jono Bacon (see top picture), the man behind the conference, gave a keynote on the topic of incentivization and its importance when creating and sustaining a community. He highlighted the importance of creating a sense of belonging in a community and recognition for contributions that is honest and authentic. Both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards can be used to create this recognition. The former may include things such as swag or consideration in performance reviews. The latter may include a public or direct personal thank you. The exact combination should be adapted to the community and organization in context.

In his other presentation at the Open Community Conference, Jono continued on the topic but in a larger context on how to build community strategies that scale. Among many things, this includes building clear on-ramps for users and contributors to engage and evolve, being inclusive, transparent and open in the governance, and accepting and embracing failure. For further insights on this area, I recommend grabbing a copy of Jono’s book “The Art of Community”.

Ibrahim Haddad, head of open source at Samsung, gave a presentation on how companies should work with the four Cs: consumption, compliance, contribution, and community. One often start with consumption, realize the importance of compliance, and then the potential benefits of contributing. A good point he makes is how inner-sourcing (the adoption of open source development practices internally) can be used as a bridge between consumption and contribution in order to build internal culture and practices. Concerning community strategy, they each year go through the communities in which Samsung is engaged, to identify the top 20-25 communities with the highest importance. For each community, a workshop is arranged with the internal development team responsible for the engagement. In the workshop, goals are set up for the year and planning done for how they will be reached. Based on the need, the involvement of the central open source office is tailored accordingly.

Stephen Walli, a long-time open source advocate currently at Microsoft, gave his presentation on why there is no open source business model both at the Open Community Conference and at the Open Source Entrepreneurs Network’s symposium (extended cut!). He has interesting points on why you should not mix your customers and partners, with the community as they require different engagements and expectations. Same goes for products vs. the open source projects - these require separate (although overlapping) planning processes and ways of measuring.

Allessio Fattorini, a community and prosecco evangelist #ProseccOSS and NethServer, gave a fantastic and graphical presentation on how they have built and work with their community. One good point (out of many) is that the company needs to be transparent and open about their intents with the community, how they use the project internally, what they keep closed, and most importantly - why. This is needed in order to build trust, inclusion, and incentivization for the community, tying back to much of Jono’s points. Another point is how the community may be seen as a source of new requirements and ideas, as he puts it - “90% of all community feedback is crap, this means 10% is gold”.

Sara Novotny, head of open source strategy at Google Cloud and former Kubernetes community manager, gave a keynote on the two-year journey of how the Kubernetes project went from being company-led to community-led. An issue in the beginning of this transition was the project branding - Kubernetes by Google. This needed to be rubbed off, and the project to be put in a foundation with corporate independence, which became the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). A lesson learned was the need for an open and explicit governance model. Implicity and finger-pointing create confusion and mistrust. To address this issue they adopted distributed decision-making and later a transitional bootstrap governance committee which helped the community to reach a more explicit and sustainable project governance.

Lastly, I’d like to highlight the keynote by Reuben Paul who literally hacked a toy car on stage via its bluetooth transmission. Worth noting here is that Reuben is 11 years old. Besides pointing out the importance of (and often neglected) security aspects in IoT, Reuben showed that age does not matter when you have an interest and a will to learn. A true inspiration.

Although Reuben was without a doubt the number one rockstar of the summit, I’ll end with a picture of number two - Linus Torvalds and his entourage!

Linus Torvalds at the Open Source Summit Europe in Prague