As companies in and out of the technology industry move to advance their open source programs, they are rapidly learning about the value of participating in open source communities. Organizations are using open source code to build their own commercial products and services, which drives home the strategic value of contributing back to projects.
However, diving in and participating without an understanding of projects and their communities can lead to frustration and other unfortunate outcomes. Approaching open source contributions without a strategy can tarnish a company’s reputation in the open source community and incur legal risks.
The Linux Foundation’s free online guide Participating in Open Source Communities can help organizations successfully navigate these open source waters. The detailed guide covers what it means to contribute to open source as an organization and what it means to be a good corporate citizen. It explains how open source projects are structured, how to contribute, why it’s important to devote internal developer resources to participation, as well as why it’s important to create a strategy for open source participation and management.
One of the most important first steps is to rally leadership behind your community participation strategy. “Support from leadership and acknowledgement that open source is a business critical part of your strategy is so important,” said Nithya Ruff, Senior Director, Open Source Practice at Comcast. “You should really understand the company’s objectives and how to enable them in your open source strategy.”
Building relationships is good strategy
The guide also notes that building relationships at events can make a difference, and that including community members early and often is a good strategy. “Some organizations make the mistake of developing big chunks of code in house and then dumping them into the open source project, which is almost never seen as a positive way to engage with the community,” the guide notes. “The reality is that open source projects can be complex, and what seems like an obvious change might have far reaching side effects in other parts of the project.”
Through the guide, you can also learn how to navigate issues of influence in community participation. It can be challenging for organizations to understand how influence is earned within open source projects. “Just because your organization is a big deal, doesn’t mean that you should expect to be treated like one without earning the respect of the open source community,” the guide advises.
The Participating in Open Source Communities guide can help you with these strategies and more, and it explores how to weave community focus into your open source initiatives. It is one of a new collection of free guides from The Linux Foundation and The TODO Group that provide essential information for any organization running an open source program. The guides are available now to help you run an open source program office where open source is supported, shared, and leveraged. With such an office, organizations can efficiently establish and execute on their open source strategies.
These guides were produced based on expertise from open source leaders. Check out the guides and stay tuned for our continuing coverage.
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