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Network World - Many of the most important precepts for managing an open-source community, according to Puppet Labs community lead Dawn Foster, are contained within the pages of science-fiction and fantasy literature.
In a presentation given Tuesday at LinuxCon in New Orleans, Foster said that Dr. Who’s TARDIS (a powerful time-travel device) works well as a metaphor for open-source communities, which may be more complicated than meets the eye.
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“On the surface, the TARDIS looks like a simple blue Police box, right?” she said. “So what can you really tell about a community from the outside? … On the surface, you might see a few mailing lists, an IRC channel, maybe a forum … but until you actually dive in and start participating, it’s really hard to understand what it’s actually like.”
Lessons about inclusivity – of female contributors, younger contributors and those from different cultural backgrounds – featured heavily in Foster’s talk, as did the importance of honesty, patience and general good nature.
I, Robot – and more specifically, author Isaac Asimov’s creation of the laws of robotics – help highlight the importance of universal community standards.
“Isaac Asimov created the three laws of robotics so that he could write stories that went against the robot stereotype of his time … robots turning against their creators and destroying them,” said Foster. “Many of us find communities full of people who are acting like jerks – like the [older stereotype] robots - to be tedious and annoying.”
Other highlights included:
Foster – a former system administrator who’s been active in various open-source communities for 12 years – tells Network World that the most important issue facing open-source communities stems from their own diverse natures.
“As a result, how you manage each community is different. This makes it hard for people to understand exactly what it means when you say you are a community manager, because each community is different and what the community manager does is different across communities,” she says.
Email Jon Gold at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.
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