The New Open Source: Money, Corporations, and Identity

Nicole C. EngardDanese Cooper, head of open source for PayPal, spoke to during the Day 2 OSCON morning keynotes about the sustainability of open source, mixing in some of the history of open source as well as her own sage advice.

She started on a high note. We have won! But this comes with some interesting challenges. We now have a whole new wave of people coming in to participate, but they are not "battle tested," as she calls it. The group of people that have gone before, who have seen open source start, falter, struggle, and finally win, have passion for open source. Many newcomers do as well but they are also more intent on the money in open source.

When Josh Berkus wrote an article on how to destroy a community, it was revolutionary. We know now without hesitation that transparency and collaboration are key elements. But, corporations must optimize for profits—they really know how to massage a message—which is something we can accept, but we should also call them out on it from time to time to keep them honest.

Danese said, "Open source is already a masterpiece, it doesn't need editing. But, we do need more diversity and could be nicer to each other." To her, we are superheroes, and the business of open source can't happen without us. Other professions can be replaced.

Key takeaways from her talk:

  • Transparency is not negotiable! Board meetings minutes need to be published, decisions have to happen by consensus, donors have to be disclosed, and decisions need to be archived.

  • Open source is people. If you are working in a situation where your commit is hidden under the name of the corporation it's up to us to say: "No, I get my own reputation." Your work record needs to be portable so your next employer can see how you code, and so that how people can find you to ask you why you did it that way.

  • Open source people are not fungible (fungibility means that you are replaceable by someone who can do the job as well as you). Back in the day, if you worked for a company that was using you as a fungible resource and insisting that you could not work on your passion project, you'd quit (I know I did). Patronage is the best way to keep your folks happy, to keep the old guard open source in place you need to let them work on projects that they are passionate about pro bono.

  • Money changes everything. Money is okay in open source, but you need to be able to get access to every level of a project without having to pay. "Pay to play" boards are dangerous.

  • The free software versus open source argument has to stop! The new people don't care about this argument and it puts them to sleep. It's leading to newcomers not picking a license so they don't have to pick a side. We need to decide we're on the same side basically and move on.

The New Open Source: Money, Corporations, and Identity was authored by Nicole C. Engard and published in It is being republished by Open Health News under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0). The original copy of the article can be found here.