Brendan Scott, September 2008
Mary Gardiner has written a blog post about how to get females involved in projects. I want to emphasise one of the points she makes:
Don’t discount what women do [‘what women do’ here used as ‘community management, documentation and similar activities’, via Geek chicks: second thoughts]
I believe there is a blind spot here for everyone in the open source community. It is nothing for an open source company to fund development effort, and hire x coders (for some non-trivial x) but to suggest that any other contribution to the community be made is to cross the line on acceptable suggestions. But the community does not rely on coders alone. The best code in the world is useless if no one knows of it, or if it is hidden behind a terrible user interface, or can’t be licensed because lawmakers have outlawed it (eg encryption code). I have hinted at this problem in my post on FLOSS best practices. This is what I am referring to by the references to KPIs in that post.
Because numbers are relatively easy to come by, it is comparatively easy to criticise companies for not submitting enough code to one project or another but, there are other things that a contribution to the community should be measured against. Unfortunately, the word which has filtered back to me is that managers are not assessed against these soft contributions. It should therefore come as no surprise that companies are not committing to them.
It would be nice to see the community demand that organisations support the whole breadth of the open source community. In this way, a more rounded view of what makes a good open source corporate citizen could be created. This would include things such as supporting marketing, documentation or communication efforts, the making of submissions to governments or courts (or supporting compliance initiatives) and the myriad of other things which are essential to a functional community associated with either a project or with open source generally.