Rackspace: so open, employees can compete with Rackspace

NOTE: Read to the end for the payoff on the title punch line, it might just surprise you.

Progressive technology firms are known for their practice of formalising (formalizing if you’re in ‘the valley’ area) their innovation policies.

Google famously used its Pareto-derived 80:20 policy to encourage workers to spend 20 of their time on creative side projects.

Other firms emulated this practice including Hootsuite.

The company that likes to be known as the “open cloud company” Rackpsace is the latest to step forward and officially say that it prioritises sharing and collaborating over self-focused work.

There, we’ve said it, do you feel better?

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What Rackspace has actually said is that the firm is formally changing Rackspace policy so that “Rackers” (that’s a person who works at Rackspace, get it?) are free to contribute to and participate in any public open source project of their choice that has an established open source license.

“Previously, our policy was that they had to check with our IP Committee/legal department prior to contributing. In evaluating the last three years, we’ve found no cases where Rackers came to us with unreasonable requests. All exercised good judgment. We’re removing the barrier to collaboration and sharing. They can contribute code, patches, tests, docs – you name it; we encourage it.,” blogged Van Lindberg in his role as VP of intellectual property.

Restrictions here include the fact that the firm’s workers are encouraged to contribute on their own time — and if they wish to contribute during work hours they must obtain approval from their manager.

But hey, how open is this part?

“If a Racker would like to contribute to a project that is directly competitive with Rackspace, we’d like to understand why before they contribute,” writes Lindberg.

Could this set (or at least reinforce) a precedent for the way corporate attitudes to open source development now grow?