In yesterday's post, the first of this two part series, I began by making mention of the Verizon announcement stating that the company is set to support Android-based phones. And I, like many others, am interested to see if a Google Android will mature into a bona-fide open platform for mobile device development. However, I'm also aware that innovation is never a given, even if openness is embraced entirely. Similarly, there are governing dynamics for achieving open source success that will set the tone for Android's trajectory and progression. In this post I will continue with the last five (5) of these nine dynamics.
Representative Decision Making
The term "democratic" is regularly used to refer to brand of decision-making employed within open source communities. This line of thought tends to categorize communities like the Linux kernel (where Linus Torvalds retains the final right of veto) as less democratic. However, that particular expression [literally "rule by the people"] isn't quite reflective of how decisions are made and authority is actually exercised within a healthy open source community. It is closer to governance by consensus where imposed authority and top-down decisions are tempered by thoroughly integrated forms of consensus building that prizes discourse in the open over autocratic commands.
Even as the debate over the viability of cash-motivated contributions takes place, the opportunities and value of participation stands pat. Obviously offering cash is the quickest path to generating a buzz across a larger segment of individuals and potentially enticing some to participate. Be that as it may, sustained community development occurs as a result of highly-qualified parties choosing to continually participate over the long haul. Once an individual proves him/herself qualified (through consistent contributions to the community) he/she is rewarded with recognition, the option of assuming a more prominent role (unofficial or official) and/or more opportunities to learn and develop new skills. This creates a self-reinforcing cycle where growth is realized through participation and more growth opens the door to more opportunities to participate.
Continuous Improvement and Low-Cost Maturation
Open source projects have long lived by mantra of "release early and often" as a governing principle for release cycles. Typically, the opportunity to accelerate the rate of improvement for software is a key driver for adopting this approach in earnest. On the other hand, openness ensures that the changes, releases and branches are all transparent to the extent that tracking, managing and referencing them can be done without hassle. As an open source project matures, the lowered cost of building and testing variations (gained through these tasks being distributed across the community) improves the prospect of assuring security and quality control. This is key to enabling a project to embark upon the path of evolving into a solution that meets user needs and requirements.
Selective Barriers to Participation
While the general concept is that open = no barriers to participation, some barriers are necessary to maintain a sense of governance and structure. For instance, a newcomer should be granted full access to relevant information and source code, yet no such blind permissions should be granted for modifying official, or even unofficial, distributions. This might seem intuitive to most, yet on some levels the decision to carefully cultivate or entirely eliminate barriers can prove complex. For example, some community support forums require that users register using a valid email address before posting in the discussion area(s) while others allow anonymous pseudonyms. Whatever the case, any such barriers should do nothing to decrease the willingness to join an open source community.
Communal Ownership and Access
It can't be argued that at the foundation of an open source project is its license that dictates the terms of attribution/usage for the software asset in question. One of the main purposes of licensing is to protect a valuable common resource against misappropriation, both internal and external to the community. Additionally, it is important that licensing appeal to a sense of fairness while also remaining aligned with the core realities of community-driven development. The optimal community-centric outlook prizes participants as co-owners and promotes forms of sharing the rewards and responsibilities of ownership equitably across the board.
This is the second part of a two part series, view the first part here.