About Brian Proffitt

Brian Proffitt is the Principal Community Analyst for Open Source and Standards team at Red Hat, responsible for community content, onboarding, and open source consulting. A former technology journalist, Brian is also a graduate lecturer at the University of Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @TheTechScribe

How Risky is License Risk?

Every once in a while, somebody will come along and highlight that restrictive licenses carry more risk than permissive licenses. I think this is not as big a threat as some would have you believe.

There are two main branches of what is broadly known as free/libre open source software (FLOSS). Free software licenses are restrictive in the sense that if you use software and modify it, and then want to share it with someone else, you must share your changes with the original project.

Open source software licenses are defined as permissive, since there are typically no sharing requirements on the code. You make your changes and then share the code only if you want to.

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Taking a Break

Beach Ball

Memorial Day in the US is traditionally the unofficial start of summer, but ironically it’s also the start of a busy community season around the world.

With more students out of school, code contributions on various projects tend to rise. Conferences also tend to increase in frequency (particularly towards the end of the season). But even as life gets busier, it’s important to remember to pace yourself.

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Is Coopetition Real?

boxer Let’s not kid ourselves: the free and open source community is not all laurel (yanni?) leaves and Kumbaya. There are arguments all the time.

Vi vs. emacs. Restrictive vs. permissive. Open vs. proprietary. Heck, on most days, I have had discussions about one or more of these topics before I’ve finished my morning coffee.

When you add business interests in the mix, the arguments add a whole new layer of motivation because now we’re talking about money and sales.

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Look Both Ways

bus It’s a pretty violent metaphor, this notion of what happens to your open source software project if one or more of its members might get hit by a bus. Or a truck. Or whatever motor vehicle of doom happens to be barreling down the road of fate. At first thought, one might simply want to urge people to look both ways when crossing the street.

But the bus factor is a real concern for many open source projects, because too often a lot of the work finds itself in the hands of just a few people, who in turn become very critical to the project’s success.

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Fly Your FLOSS Flag

Whether it’s a favorite sports team, a school, or just a group of friends, there is something about human nature that seems to drive many of us to display our affiliation.

We do this, typically, by displaying plumage that is synchronized. If I am a fan or a particular team, and I see someone wearing a matching jersey, then I can identify with that person in some way, even if it’s the first time I have met them.

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When Worlds Collide

This week is our annual Red Hat Summit, a time when many of our nearly 12,000 employees put their work down and come together to work with customers and determine how best to work together moving forward.

This may seem pretty antithetical to the goals of a team like ours, where free and open source projects are the focus, not commericial support and training. But actually customers get just as much benefit talking with the community projects as they do the sales and engineering teams.

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Setting Managerial Priorities

Throughout IT is the notion that when you are promoted to being a manager, you should somehow be able to do the things you have been doing. If you are a coder, you should be able to code and manage. If you are a writer, writer, sysadmin… the same theory holds.

The manage-from-within notion is something a lot of community managers have to contend with every day. It is an especially fuzzy boundary because, typically, community managers aren’t really managing people at all, but rather guiding resources and providing support. So why shouldn’t they get to also work to their strengths?

Because nothing could be further from the truth.

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What College Students Do (And Don’t) Know About Open Source Software

Given the rapid growth of open source, it seems reasonable to expect that undergraduate students in computer science or software engineering programs would graduate with an understanding of open source and the ability to make project contributions. However, most students are not being taught core tools and concepts such as licenses, version control, and issue trackers as part of their degree program.

This special episode of Community Central shares the results of recent research anthropologist Matt Bernius conducted for Mozilla on the state of undergraduate education around open source software. Matt will also discuss the gap between undergraduate computing education and community expectations, and explore both the reasons for the gap and approaches to bridging it.

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The Virtues of Reply All

transparency One of my biggest pet peeves is coming into a meeting somewhere or talking casually with co-workers and realizing that a decision was made on a project that I was involved with and I didn’t know about it.

I will say right up front that 99% of this peeve are my own hang-ups: a combination of a lot of FOMO and more than a little frustration at myself for not keeping up with my own e-mail deluge. Most of the time, it turns out, the decision was made out in the open in an e-mail thread or chat session and I just didn’t see it.

Plus, I just need to loosen up a little.

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Communication as a Roadblock?

tin can over IP It’s a bit like the turning of the leaves, or the return of the swallows at Capistrano. Invariably, the wheel of community management will always slog back to the the topic of “which is the best communications platform for my users?”

In the past, and for the most part in the present and future, the answer is usually something along the lines of “whatever your community prefers.” If you have a community that does most of its communication on a mailing list and communications are active and vibrant, why change what works?

But is this don’t-rock-the-boat attitude potentially keeping some new community members away?

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