October 2008

Having been involved with open source projects since before the term "open source" was coined, I'm often asked to define "open source". My usual one word answer is not "code" or "license", but "community". For the essence and differentiator of any open source project is defined by the individuals it attracts and how their interactions provide the momentum needed to sustain the project's long term goals.

This issue of the OSBR is about "Building Community". Developers and project leaders provide insight into how communities attract and maintain new members and the stages a project goes through as it matures. This issue also includes summaries of research into how the interactions between open source developers and commercial interests are mediated through Foundations and how licensing can control who chooses to contribute to an open source community.

As always, the authors and other readers appreciate your comments and references to additonal resources. You can send these to the Editor or leave them on the OSBR website or blog.

Dru Lavigne


To succeed, an open source project needs a thriving community. This issue focuses on building these communities. It includes community development strategies employed by the Eclipse and NetBSD open source communities, the role licenses and governance play in shaping communities, as well as lessons learned from examining communities outside the open source domain.

Alessandro Rossi and Marco Zamarian from the University of Trento compare the development of proprietary and open source games in terms of the artifacts and actors that are involved in the development process.

Stefano De Paoli, Maurizio Teli and Vincenzo D'Andrea argue that open source licenses set the boundaries around who will participate within a project.

Zhensheng Xie, a developer from EA Mobile, examines the role of open source software foundations (OSSF). He identifies three types of OSSF governance structures and develops a set of propositions based on his observations of six OSSF.

Thomas Prowse, a Partner with Gowlings, advances the thesis of commons sourcing which is increasingly being found at the core of new commercial initiatives. Abundance rather than scarcity is at the center of the new model, but some scarcity needs to be preserved to provide commercial differentiators for companies.

Monica Mora is a member of the technical committee of CIDETYS in Panama. She discuesses the main activities that CIDETYS will focus on in the near future: creating a technology literacy program, setting up a technology incubator, and transferring knowledge on grid computing.

Cliff Schmidt, the Executive Director of Literacy Bridge, a non-profit start-up that uses open source software, open hardware, and open content to solve some of the world's most challenging problems: global poverty and disease. This article describes the Talking Book Project and describes how principles of successful open source projects are being applied to improve global literacy and access to information. This project demonstrates the power of combining community and appropriate technology to change the world.

We anticipate that you will enjoy the different perspectives on community building collected in this issue and that you will find the authors' messages relevant to your own efforts, whether you want to better understand how open source communities work, or whether you are involved in setting up your own open source community.


Michael Weiss

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