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Going to the Open Source Leadership Summit (OSLS) in Tahoe last week was an eye-opening experience for me. I am relatively new to the open source world and had a few unfortunate assumptions about open source software projects before I joined my new group. My new role at VMware is as a Senior Program Manager for outbound contributions to open source projects and I report to the Chief Open Source Officer in the Office of the CTO.  However, I have been coding for over 30 years, but I just never contributed to an open source project and that is something I regret now.

The OSLS was filled with all types of contributors to open source projects. Open source projects consist of a variety of people who manage programs like myself, contribute code, come up with standards, are well-versed in the licensing nuances (lawyers), are chief open source officers, are evangelists, are coordinators and many more I am not listing. What I am saying is that it requires all types of roles to get an open source project off the ground and make it successful. Open source projects are not dissimilar to any other project that a company works on except it has a few more added challenges.

Participating in the conference and meeting the individuals who take open source projects from the ground up opened my eyes a little more to all the complexities involved in starting and maintaining an open source project.  I was able to glean experience from people who have been living and breathing this for decades.  While creating any open source project may not in itself be a difficult task, making it a successful one is not a trivial matter. My next blog post called “The Bathrobe People” touches on the misconceptions about the magical people who contribute to the boring areas of a project without question.

The beautiful thing about open source projects is that we are able to leverage talented contributors who are not limited to the confines of one’s current company. The world is figuratively your oyster in that anyone from around the globe can ask to contribute to an open source project.  This can be both a bane and a boon.  It can be a bane since you, as the maintainer of the project, potentially need to go through a lot of code reviews of unusable submissions before you find what you are looking for.  But it is also a boon since having a more diverse pool of contributors looking at your project through fresh eyes or eyes that have an entirely different take on the issue and might have a novel solution to your project’s problem.

As a newbie to this world, I am probably looking at it with rose colored glasses and oversimplifying things, but I have to say I was never a big fan of reinventing the wheel.  Why reinvent it when we can improve upon it?  Isn’t it great that we can focus on making something better rather than starting something that has already been invented from scratch?

Please look for more of my posts on open source as they come out and follow my journey through looking at open source projects from a newbie’s perspective to that of an expert (hopefully)!