I’ve not written one of these posts for some time. I left the Outercurve Foundation effective the beginning of July. The Outercurve Foundation is in the process of restructuring its services and membership structure to meet a broader audience of developers and to deliver hopefully more value to its existing projects. (Stay tuned for announcements in that space.) Part of this effort will require an increased focus on technology to facilitate more automated services, rather than "staff intensive" services. To that end, I have left as Outercurve’s Technical Director.
It has been a great three years. The technical non-profit consortia of my experience were all launched with a collection of a dozen CEOs on stage explaining to customers the strategic significance of the collaboration to their businesses. This anchors the initial membership and acts as the inbound vector for new sponsors and members. The Outercurve Foundation (originally called the Codeplex Foundation) launched differently.
Outercurve has always had much more of a start-up feel to it. The interim board hired Paula Hunter as executive director in Feb 2010, who then hired me in May of 2010. Paula and I defined a business model for our “start-up”, iterating over the value foundations provide their free and open source software projects, and why they’re important for the growth of their projects. A lot of the thinking has gone into the various presentations we’ve given, and culminated in the recently published International FOSS Law Review article.
It’s been interesting to define the Outercurve business against the other key foundations as they each evolved around their key projects. Foundations provide IP management, a neutral non-profit space for projects to grow as commercial interest in participation grows, and experience to guide new projects. We worked at Outercurve to define a light weight IP policy while remaining rigorous. Likewise, we developed a mentorship program instead of insisting projects survive an incubation process. Our efforts at education have grown to include hosting the first modest conference for our projects with an agenda that included the likes of Jono Bacon, Scott Guthrie, Donnie Berkholz, Ross Gardler, Kohsuke Kawaguchi, and several of our more experienced project leaders.
Outercurve has grown to 28+ projects, with hundreds of contributors, and millions of lines of code across three gallery “collections”, with shining stars in each gallery. Website Panel, Chronozoom, Orchard, and NuGet continue to grow and thrive. (NuGet is now embedded in Visual Studio demonstrating that even Microsoft product teams are fully taking onboard how to live in a co-joined open source-enabled proprietary product world.) There are more, varied and interesting projects in the pipeline in discussions with the Foundation.
Working with Paula has been a pleasure. I’ve learned an enormous amount about non-profits as businesses, and the start-up as non-profit. She remains the Operational Goddess. I’ve also had the privilege of making many new acquaintances and friends this past three years. But the Board is shifting its business model evolution, it’s a new fiscal year at the Foundation, and it’s time for me to move on.
There are a couple of projects I’m chasing presently.
- At the Outercurve Open Source Software Conference I presented the start of work on patterns and practices for open source success [slides, video]. I believe there are certain activities that software development teams do that allow them to scale successfully, regardless of whether they’re building collaborative liberally-licensed projects (a.k.a FOSS), closed proprietary product for sale, or an internal IT program. I’ll be continuing to evolve this work. I feel it’s important. I also feel it has repercussions for how software engineering is taught (or not) in a Github world. Software is amazingly dynamic and if the project/product can’t scale, it’s useless. I’d like to see the equivalent of the Google Summer-of-Code re-invented into university programs to teach the next group of CompSci and software engineering students how software is constructed in the real world.
- Donnie Berholz did some great statistical work with the Ohloh dataset to demonstrate that active FOSS projects grow more active. I want to build on that work to see if there are ways to demonstrate that the patterns and practices [above] manifest themselves in more active and successful projects. The joy of datasets like Ohloh is that they demonstrate what developers actually do, and not what they say they do.
- “Open hardware” is coming. 30+ years may not be a long time to work, but in our industry it is long enough to see waves of innovation arrive that obliterate the previous model. I started work in the world of minicomputers, saw the arrival of the “toy” we called the PC, the rise of networking and client-server UNIX (now Linux) computing, and now the state of ubiquitous networking and handheld devices based on a smart phone model that didn’t exist six years ago. Embedded devices (software+hardware) are everywhere. The amateur historian and amateur economist in me is always looking for patterns in the rise and collapse of successive waves of tech and the companies that come and go. I think the rise of the Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and open hardware at places like SolderPad will become something fascinating.
All that said, I love to build teams and products that excite customers, so I’m absolutely looking for interesting work. I remain fascinated with the state of FOSS in China. [LinkedIn profile]