06 Dec Part 2: Open Source Values – Meritocracy, Transparency, and Legitimacy
1. A colloquial southern California greeting
2. The combination of several values inherent in open source.
The open source movement has created a tremendous amount of value over the last decade. The creation of this value was a result of the underlying values of the Open Source movement itself. These underlying values have been discussed previously, and now as the very movement itself is being challenged by market forces, I believe it is once again important to defend these values to ensure the integrity and ongoing success of the movement.
While there are many potential core values that could describe the fundamentals of the open source movement, my experience has been around the commercialization of open source and selling this concept to real customers. This, in turn, has led me to focus on three core values that are indicators of open source business success:
- Transparency. Open source forces you to stand naked before the world. As the ultimate peer review process, your code is out there for the world to see, touch, and judge. But within the scope of business, it goes beyond just source code. Your business practices are also transparent to the world. Therefore, if you SAY something, you better do what you say. If you try to balk, come up with some bogus business model, or don’t live up to the Open Source ethos, you get “outed”. The transparency inherent in Open Source is a powerful regulator, modulator, and operant force to help you act with integrity within your corporate walls, in front of customers, and out in the community.
- Meritocracy. Open source demands that each line of code, each individual contributor, or each company who espouses to be open source to stand up, be counted, and do something. Despite what you say, what your marketing materials says, or what your purported business plan is all about, there is accountability to a community. In an open source world, you are judged by what you DO. You either produce code, close customers, build value, or you die. End of conversation.
- Legitimacy. Achieving either of the above, enables you to gain influence with your customers and within your community. And it can’t be a one hit wonder either, as legitimacy implies a proven track record over time. In Open Source, it is all about trusted voices (branding). This is the reason why a guy like Linus Torvalds, can remain in control of the worldwide development of the Linux kernel. Not only has he earned that right by the quality of his work product (or direction thereof), but he has done it all out in the open. He has proven himself over and over so that when he speaks, his legitimacy is both the source of his leadership but also the reason why people are willing to follow his lead.
Say…Do…Be. These open source values should be prominently displayed and oft repeated by every “open source” company. Your ability to become a trusted voice, and thereby win friends (community) and influence people (customers) depends on it.