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Open source communities need simple social “hacks?

July 19, 2012 No Comments

SOURCE: ZDNet.com

Turns out the open source development model has some flaws after all. Or is it just a case of geeks being geeks?

David Eaves, principal of Eaves Consulting, told attendees during his opening keynote at OSCON 2012 today that a lot of the “soft” skills that hard core coders often scoff at are actually important when it comes to producing flawless code.

What kinds of skills?

People skills. Negotiation. Inquiry. Social etiquette, Open, honest dialogue.

“We’re engaged in a fraud. We tell people [in an open source community] that we live in a meritocracy but when you look at [the most successful] individual people on projects … you’re promoted based on your soft skills,” Eaves said about the idea that the best coders win in the open source community. “That’s the social contract they’re getting into.”

Eaves, who has worked on Mozilla’s Bugzilla and advises on open government, is parlaying his skills in the art of negotiation to create a more productive open source community.

In his keynote, The Science of Open Source Community Management, Eaves argues that great coders don’t always climb the ladder of success in the open source world for the same reasons they may not succeed in a corporate environment.

He notes that far too many threads in bug report systems are filled with unproductive commentary and harsh treatement of developers who may be simply green to the bug reporting process or language impaired.

“Simple social hacks” can be implemented into the culture of an open source community to encourage more open dialogue and understanding, leading to better solutions and less wasted time.

Community managers ought to focus on getting developers to inquire more, paraphrase more and offer up solutions to problems to achieve optimal code development. And he means serious — not sarcastic — inquiry.

“All that happens is people show up and say this is what should happen,” he said.

“How long have you been so stupid,” is not a real question, he quipped, challenging developers to embrace social etiquette and management practices.

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