I have been reading the book “Producing Open Source Software – How to Run a Successful Free Software Project” by Karl Fogel over the past weeks. It is available for free here: http://producingoss.com/

I especially liked the chapters about being open:

Fogel’s point is that if you want to run your project as an open source project, it is better to start early with being open, ie. to have your code publicly available, have discussions in the public, offer demo data for everyone to use, etc.

Please read the short paragraphs linked above, they are well worth reading!

I think we have been quite ok with the OpenPetra project regarding these points:

  • we have a nightly build of the standalone installer
  • we have several demo databases
  • we have a public bug tracker
  • we have an IRC for immediate discussion (although only during working hours in Europe)
  • we have a public wiki and a public forum for discussions
  • we have quarterly (?) news updates on the announcement mailinglist
  • we have Twitter integrated on the website, which is irregularly updated with news items
  • the weekly phone conference is open on invitation basis
  • … and probably some more points that I did not think of at the moment but are still important!

Unfortunately, since Sourceforge did shutdown the hosted applications, our wiki and forum are available only read-only.

My suggestion for the future: Since the forum was not much frequented, I think it might be enough to have a mailinglist where all developers are subscribed. Sourceforge still offers free mailinglists. Mailinglists are the most common way of discussion among developers in the open source community. For users perhaps a forum is more common, but we are not there yet at this point. We can create a separate mailinglist or forum for users when the time comes that we have users of OpenPetra.

I also want to say why I think especially for OpenPetra it is very important to being open:

In the past years, there has been discouragement because the project has invested into potential volunteering developers a lot, but then they vanished before even committing a single line of code. Or they have committed code, that had to be reverted because of poor quality or other misunderstandings.
This makes my point: most of the time, the conversation with these people was in private, not in public. So there was no chance of a peer review from other developers. This might have excluded the new people from the developer community, and they did not get positive feedback. And all the conversation is lost, no other potential developer can learn from it, and for the next person you would have to do it all over again.

Please can we continue to be open in the OpenPetra project, and become better at it!

It saves us all a lot of time, and encourages everyone! You can see what is happening. This also makes the project interesting for outsiders and potential contributors.

I think, one single organisation needs to put in a lot of resources, to make such a huge project like OpenPetra happen. It is worth the effort of being open, if eventually other organisations or individuals get drawn in and share the work load.
This is a gradual process of course, but it is worth continuing it.

Open Source Development: Being Open at the example of OpenPetra
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