The power of communities

by Matthew Langham

Working in the open source scene for the past has opened my eyes on various new aspects of successful software development. One of the most important factors - and something typically missing from non-open source development is the emphasis on community. Stefan Mazzocchi, Apache Cocoon "inventor" and long-time Apache individual, often likes to make the sometimes drastic sounding statement that code is in fact uninmportant when it comes to success or failure of open source projects. He likes to state that "it's all about community". Althought this orientation towards the people, as opposed to the code, does seem to contradict typical software development - it does hold true that the Cocoon project (for example) is still going very strong (even after over three years) and "flame wars" are few and far between (although all the more surprising when they do come).

I've never known Microsoft to be particularly strong followers of this strategy - although there have been rumblings that even in Seattle, the word is out on communities. And then today I stumble over a job opportunity with Microsoft Germany with the following paragraph:

The success of the Open Source movement has shown the power communities can have. This is a new position created to lead the charge in EMEA to regaining the hearts and minds of the broad mass of IT enthusiasts.
The purpose is to positively influence our customer satisfaction and advocacy through the development of managed and unmanaged communities.

Read the whole thing here.

Another sign that, behind the scenes, Microsoft is indeed watching the open source movement. Very closely.

Can Microsoft adopt the open source strategy for communities? What will their version look like?


2003-04-06 07:55:46
What benefit is there from a Microsoft community to be had?
Al draagt een aap een gouden ring, het is en blijft een lelijk ding.

Some Europeans will understand :)

Where is the benefit if more people to become part of the community when the reason for the community is to enhance the glory of Microsoft and its modus operandi. Microsoft has never been about fostering communities or it must be because it was alright to use to learn the software at home so the company had "no option" but to buy the software. After companies bought into the Microsoft way, home use became increasingly expensive and home users were increasingly told they were criminals.

On first glance they are not the "IT users" targetted here BUT they are, they also have illegal copies of software at home. They are Mr Important when working and Nasty pirates who prevent all these non existing jobs from materialising.

Consider the length of the life cycle of a bought package, compare that to the average wage and, consider how believable IDC is. When this is the message from Microsoft I believe it will be a hard sell.

2003-04-06 14:47:25
Microsoft and Community: Not full immersion.
Microsoft invests a great deal in their version of community, from sponsoring GotDotNet type sites (and MSDN..), sponsoring user groups, most valuable supporter programs, and conferences & seminars.

I would typically call it "community playgrounds", rather than the full immersion experience open source offers.
What's the best way to learn a language and the culture? Full immersion.

Microsoft may be watching, and through these attempting to immerse *themselves* in the culture (ActiveState?), but it will be quite a while before the opposite is true.