Welcome!

Open Source Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Plutora Blog, Nitin Bandugula

Related Topics: Open Source, Java, XML, .NET, Linux, Virtualization

Open Source: Article

Looking to Pull in Developer Interest? Build a Community

Some key ways to make your open source community really work

As software consumers, we've become spoiled with the number of choices there are when it comes to open source and freeware. There are so many technologies and vendors out there shouting for attention that you don't often have to look long to find a usable solution. When you're on the other side of the relationship, this means that consumers (in this case, developers) aren't necessarily going to come running because you released new software. You have to find a way to get their attention. One solution is to build, grow and sustain a community.

By building an active community, you can enhance an open source project in several different ways:

  1. An actively engaged community can provide valuable feedback and can help the development team improve on features, or include ones they may not have considered.
  2. An active community can push forward the adoption of a project far more rapidly than you could on your own. Developers posting on sites and talking about your work will draw in others. This peer-to-peer support model enables you to be successful far more quickly.
  3. You can also structure your community to put yourself in a strong position to crowd source skills, such as improving the applicability of a product into diverse areas.

A Community Approach Gives You a Route to Roadmaps
Open source has gotten to a point where it is a trusted vehicle. It encapsulates the power of distributed peer review and transparency to create secure, quality software that can be developed faster and at a lower cost than the development of traditional commercial products.

Why has this trust developed? Because there is a certain trust to be found in being able to see the source code. Even if you never get your hands dirty yourself, it's nice to know that you could.

As a matter of fact, Actuate runs contests for some plug-ins and the product started to move towards Big Data before it really got on the radar, because people were asking for it in our open source community. One of our community's developers wrote a mongoDB extension for a contest before we'd even seen the need for one. That helped push us to start thinking about partnering with Big Data companies to create BIRT ODA connectors for some of the more popular platforms.

A key advantage of an active open source community is it can help you understand the product's requirements in the wider world and help you put in place an achievable and maintainable roadmap to drive forward.

So Where Do You Start?
This all might sound great, but the 1636.4 bitcoin question is how do you build a successful open source community and keep the momentum going?

The first question you have to ask yourself is: What are the most important things you need to do to drive community for your open source project? From a sharing perspective this will depend on what kind of license you opt to choose as to whether you are going to build a small, vibrant community - or the largest community you can.

The license defines the responsibilities placed on third parties in your community, so ensuring you have the right license to sustain the project in the way you choose is essential. Some open source licenses are very permissive, others can be very restrictive. Because of this difference, developers must pay close attention to the licenses of the different software they're using, so I can't stress enough how important this aspect is to the adoption of your product.

You must also give your project a clear value. Remember, just because it says open source on the tin, it doesn't mean other developers will rush to open it. So product design, the APIs, openness and the applicability of that software for the kind of problems people are trying to solve are all key topics you must outline.

Finally you need to get the structure and the organization of the open source project right. If you don't get the foundation right on a house it will fall down. The same goes for an open source project. Make transparency your mantra. Transparency gives a community trust. Make sure you highlight who is behind the project, the variety of ways developers can get involved in the project, what commitment is expected, how the QA and the release process will work, and be sure to open up the roadmap.

You also need to be clear on who is looking at the project. Some will visit because they want free software and want to find out how it works, others will climb aboard because they think it is a project worth supporting - something that can change their world or even THE world. It is these developers who will evangelize for you.

Developers are investing their time in your project, so they need to have a clear picture of how you envision it taking shape. Your vision and their vision should be on and the same, if you are running an effective, engaged community.

The Importance of Senior Management Backing
Even today you might be surprised by the fact that some people just can't put ‘business' and ‘open source' into one sentence. But the reality is that a huge business economy has grown up around the ethos of open source, even to the point that Tesla recently made their code open source. We can see interaction between open source communities and companies commercializing products developed with their input.

Senior management of the project sponsor company has to be clear that open source isn't a business model in itself - it is a way of developing and distributing software, and it is growing in importance. Any business model built around the concept of open source will affect the community and this must be appreciated internally. Senior management must understand why the community is important, what the benefits are and that their interests and concerns are satisfied. An active community has strength in numbers and, if not inspired, community interest will flail, or worse. Bored developers who don't find continually refreshed relevance in your community will vote with their feet.

Set up metrics to track interest. How many developers visit the site? How many sign up? Once signed up how many get actively involved? By producing statistics, you can report back to the executive team on how there is a real link between the growth of the community and the growth in the number of projects springing up around the commercial software.

Building Blocks in Place - Now Grow It
You have launched your community; your next job is to develop it. Get the message out. Ensure that you find developers that will evangelize your project, be it through blogs, social media or presenting at trade shows. Whether they are employees or just members of the community, your evangelists are the folks who will engage your community on a daily basis, allowing for communication with the development team about what direction the community is heading in, and plan how to keep the product heading in that direction.

Make sure your message is clear on your website. You must explain to developers what the project is all about, why they should find it interesting and what skills they can bring to the party. When all of this is clear, developers will feel comfortable sharing your project as a way to help others when the chance arrives. Word of mouth can be a wonderful and powerful thing if you've done everything right.

Don't forget developers like to get their hands dirty, so build tutorials and examples or APIs - and get them out there to be found.

Make sure you have someone on hand to support early adopters. Developers need to be able to connect quickly with internal experts to help with any initial hurdles they may come up against. Initially you will need to run discussion groups and forums, but as your community grows the members will start answering questions for other members. To work with it, the initial users need to know how it works, so communication with these folks is very important.

Cross Pollination Is Key
As long as the product is new and interesting, you will get lots of developers interested in your product and talking about the technology. The thing to watch out for is the steep slope on the other side of the peak. Once your project loses its ‘new' gloss, you will get interest shifting to newer technologies. How do you stay relevant?

Cross pollination will help here. First, set up an outreach program to other communities, have cross-postings, and share information. Partnerships can help keep the momentum going. By linking up you become bigger and stronger and you bring new blood on board.

Secondly, capture the interest of your developers by talking about new cases with new technology. The Internet of Things is hot right now. Recently, we combined forces with Eurotech to provide an end-to-end people counting and environment monitoring system using sensors, Raspberry Pis, and BIRT. We were able to take live sensor data and other data from multiple sources and visualize it in a dashboard allowing meaningful correlations to be made. This has been a huge attention grabber for us, so look at partnering with some companies in this space or other hot spaces to spotlight the usage of your product. Make sure you communicate these new and interesting use cases in the form of presentations and short videos. Place them on YouTube, iClips and Google. By reaching out to developers through these types of methods, you can you will grow the community and retain interest.

Keep Stoking the Fire
Once your open source community is thriving, don't let the fire go out. It's important to ensure that the product fits in on an on-going basis. People are not going to build for something that they think is unnecessary. Of course there will be some member fatigue and drop off along the way, but if you continually engage with your developers - retention will be healthy and new ones will join. Sharing is hard work and requires energy, discipline and commitment. But the results can be phenomenal.

More Stories By Michael Williams

Michael Williams is a committer on the BIRT Project, and he is also BIRT Product Evangelist & Forums Manager at reporting and business analytics software specialist Actuate Corporation, which sponsors open source BIRT and offers commercial BIRT-based software to a community of more than 3.5 million BIRT developers around the world.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ActiveState, the leading independent Cloud Foundry and Docker-based PaaS provider, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. ActiveState believes that enterprises gain a competitive advantage when they are able to quickly create, deploy and efficiently manage software solutions that immediately create business value, but they face many challenges that prevent them from doing so. The Company is uniquely positioned to help address these challenges thro...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
SYS-CON Media announced that Cisco, a worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow, has launched a new ad campaign in Cloud Computing Journal. The ad campaign, a webcast titled 'Is Your Data Center Ready for the Application Economy?', focuses on the latest data center networking technologies, including SDN or ACI, and how customers are using SDN and ACI in their organizations to achieve business agility. The Cisco webcast is available on-demand.
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly in the process of breaking from its heretofore relatively obscure enterprise applications (such as plant floor control and supply chain management) and going mainstream into the consumer space. More and more creative folks are interconnecting everyday products such as household items, mobile devices, appliances and cars, and unleashing new and imaginative scenarios. We are seeing a lot of excitement around applications in home automation, personal fitness, and in-car entertainment and this excitement will bleed into other areas. On the commercial side, m...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He discussed opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and technical point of vie...
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CodeFutures, a leading supplier of database performance tools, has been named a “Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. CodeFutures is an independent software vendor focused on providing tools that deliver database performance tools that increase productivity during database development and increase database performance and scalability during production.
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
“The age of the Internet of Things is upon us,” stated Thomas Svensson, senior vice-president and general manager EMEA, ThingWorx, “and working with forward-thinking companies, such as Elisa, enables us to deploy our leading technology so that customers can profit from complete, end-to-end solutions.” ThingWorx, a PTC® (Nasdaq: PTC) business and Internet of Things (IoT) platform provider, announced on Monday that Elisa, Finnish provider of mobile and fixed broadband subscriptions, will deploy ThingWorx® platform technology to enable a new Elisa IoT service in Finland and Estonia.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
As enterprises move to all-IP networks and cloud-based applications, communications service providers (CSPs) – facing increased competition from over-the-top providers delivering content via the Internet and independently of CSPs – must be able to offer seamless cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions that can scale for small, midsize, and large enterprises, as well as public sector organizations, in order to keep and grow market share. The latest version of Oracle Communications Unified Communications Suite gives CSPs the capability to do just that. In addition, its integration ...
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, shared some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, a...