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Friday, October 2, 2009

Technical Track: Open Source Community Development

An interesting mix of women presented their views on the panel, about the Open Source culture in general, how their growth takes place, how can women provide a significant contribution to these communities and how companies are increasingly supporting Open Source within their organization.

The panelists included Teresa Giacomini (Sun Microsystems - Open Solaris initiative), Sandy Payette (Duraspace), Stormy Peters (GNOME foundation), Kathryn Vandiver (NetApp), Terri Oda (LinuxChix). The panel was led by Valerie Fenwick (Sun Microsystems, Open solaris group)

Some interesting points/questions that were answered included:

- Culture and differences in Open Source communities.

Communication is critical in Open Source communities. But how do conflicts or differences resolved? There is a diverse group of developers on these communities and it often happens that developers have different ideas for a particular implementation of a product. Also there are different work styles and timezones (remember this is global!)

- Women in open source

One interesting point is how the number of women contributing to Open Source is very feeble to begin with. One of the reasons could be that women often look towards other women in the group. So if a particular open source community does not have women contributors this could be hindering. Also there is a problem of how you retain women once they contribute to an Open Source community. Also, your code is out there in the open. That intimidates a lot of people!

Terri had an interesting anecdote to share here. She initially started contributing to the mailman group because of the bug she noticed in one of their features. She went ahead and contributed a patch. But after that she didn't think she would want to continue until she got 'thank you' notes for her contribution and she felt obligated to stick on. Of course, she is glad she stuck on.

- Roadblocks to the growth of Open Source communities

Licensing is one big roadblock to the growth of the communities. A steep learning curve to ramp up to homegrown framework. For instance, Fedora has a steep learning curve in order to ramp up to their modular framework they use

- Why do companies want to get involved?

In today's world, if technology has to evolve, the product should be Open Source. There are plenty of examples - Linux being so popular. And so is Apache! There are almost no patent issues in open source communities. Plus, companies are glad to tie up with reputed research centers in several universities where cutting edge research can be made open source for the benefit of all.

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