Collaborative Innovation For Open Source Software

By: Shanza Anwaar

Did you know that that the world’s largest open source company, Red Hat Inc., made over $1Billion in sales revenue last year?

How-to Geek defines open source software as “a program that lends its source code freely to users. The users – and anyone else – have the ability to take this source code, modify it, and distribute their own versions of the program, as well as distribute as many copies of the original as they wish”. Figures like these show that Open Source Software is not just about free software but can become a lucrative business. Developers and coders can test their skills and talents by participating in open source software projects in their communities.  By building a community of likeminded individuals, users “fix problems or develop new features and contribute code back”.   Here are a few ways to build an open source project in your community.

The Initial Stages:

  • Open source communities may initially start off as a small team (one or two developers at most).  During this “incubation period”, the first team works hard to put out the product and receive early feedback that’s necessary for building faith in the project.
  • Once the project is off the ground and interest has been generated by attracting users, additional developers are needed to help the original team continue building on the software.
  • At the start of most projects, a “benevolent dictatorships” or someone “responsible for developing major new functionality and reviewing contributed code” takes charge of managing the development team.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls:

  • An important fear for open source projects is handling “the inevitable support burden”. If this situation is not handled carefully, it can lead to users turning away as well as the founder giving up entirely on the project.  Supporting users by helping each other through handling documentation and fixing bugs in a timely manner is a great way to avoid this position.
  • As with most projects, a common danger is the possibility of one of the users or developers setting up opposing projects, also known as “Forking”.  This can create a significant division in the developer community, and hence, “strong social pressure” is taken against those who do.

For open source communities to be successful and sustainable, a “governance model” must be implemented to formalize an arrangement that helps guarantee the community continues to thrive on its own.

Shanza joins the RIC team as a Social Media Intern. Pursuing two undergraduate majors in anthropology and professional writing at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Shanza is also a co-editor and content writer at the Digital Enterprise Management Society. She hopes to make her mark as a Social Media Consultant.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal and professional experiences. Visit Altitude Accelerator for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

Recent Posts