Improving the tools of open source

It is really important to recognize that free software and open source spring not just from a set of licenses but from a set of practices and often those practices are embodied in the tools that we use. We think through the tools that we use and if you give people different tools they think differently.

– Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Radar update, OSCON 2007 (min 9:16 of 22:03)

For those coming to the Free Software and Open Source Symposium at Seneca College, and for those who are not, I wanted to riff off of O’Reilly because he is speaking precisely to something that I hope Dan Mosedale and I are going to dive into during our discussion.

The key is that while the four freedoms and the licenses are important they are not the sum total of open source. Open source communities work because of the tools and practices we’ve developed. More importantly – as Tim points out – these tools shape our behaviour. Consequently, we should never treat the tools or practices in open source as assumptions, but rather things that my must be questioned and whose benefits and limitations must be understood. It is also why we must envision and innovate new tools.

This is why I blog and write on community management and collaboration in opens source. I am trying to imagine ways to port over the ideas developed at the Harvard Negotiation practice into the open source space. I see a set of practices and tools that I believe could further enable, grow and foster effective communities. I believe it is a small, but important piece, to enabling the next generation of open source communities.

I know Dan enjoyed the presentation from last year and has some of his own thinking on this subject – with luck some interesting new insights will emerge which I promise to blog about.

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