Puppet CTO: an open source mindset is more than just a code dump

The Computer Weekly Open Source Insider team spoke to Deepak Giridharagopal this week in his role as CTO at Puppet in an attempt to examine the true nature of open source openness.

As defined in clear terms here, Puppet is an open source systems management tool for centralising and automating configuration management tasks relating to both hardware and software.

Giridharagopal argues that the ‘open’ part of open source doesn’t just refer to making the code physically available to the masses.

After all, anyone can just publish some code online and dump out the results of their project… whether they are amazing innovations, unnecessary forks or flaky half-baked ideas.

What he wants us to remember is that best open source projects are the ones that have communities built around them.

It would appear then, that effectively participating in open source communities requires skills beyond just cranking out code all day long.

Open fundamantals

“[Factors such as] empathy, diplomacy, conflict resolution, being able to deliver constructive criticism and effective evangelism of your opinions are hugely important. These traits are helpful not only to navigate all the elbowing open source environments might involve; they also foster a welcoming, diverse and collaborative culture. Without the ability to interact and empathise with others, debate in a way that is not abrasive… and effectively advocate for your opinions and ideas (let alone your code), you won’t be able to build a healthy, long-lasting project,” said Giridharagopal.

Recognising that our industry is full of ‘brilliant jerks’ [Ed: I think he meant ‘geeks’ not ‘jerks’ right?], Giridharagopal says these talented developers might produce great code, but are often terrible at working with others.

“They can be hostile to other contributors, mock those who don’t deliver code up to ‘their standards’, or denigrate the value of non-code contributions (e.g. documentation or user experience improvements). Sadly, there are many popular open source projects that gleefully harbour brilliant geeks. However, those projects succeed in spite of, not because of, their tolerance of abrasive behaviour,” said Giridharagopal.

Community spirit

Giridharagopal concludes by saying that open source adoption shows no signs of abating.

Thus, he thinks, collaboration skills are no longer optional for those who wish to build new open source communities, or effectively participate in existing ones.

Better communities, after all, produce better software.

Giridharagopal: Get the core empathy factor for open Nirvana.

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