Community Building with Open Source Software

Chip Rosenthal
Unicom Systems Development
<chip@unicom.com>

Tux the Penguin: the Linux mascot

Sixth Annual National Community Networking Conference
Open Source Software: Choices and Considerations
December 7, 2003






Fundamentals of Open Source Software
  • Software provided in source form that may be freely used, modified and redistributed.
  • More complete definition at http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php.
  • Does not mean no license or no copyright. That's what public domain means.
  • At its core, defines a licensing model, but embodies an entire development and use mode.
  • An alternative to conventional proprietary software licenses.





Fundamentals of Open Source Software (continued)

Some Key Benefits

  • cost - beyond acquisition price
    • maintenance costs
    • license management
    • equipment costs
  • freedom and flexibility
    • may be tailored to your needs
    • reduce vendor control on operations
  • security and assuredness
    • problems in the open and fixed rapidly
    • auditable





Fundamentals of Open Source Software (continued)

Some Key Concerns

  • support - who can you call?
  • responsibility - who can you sue?
  • contamination - intellectual property concerns

FUD Factors

  • fear, uncertainty, doubt
  • fear of unfamiliar licensing models
  • mudslinging from proprietary vendors





Open Source Resources





Thinking about Online Community Building

When you log into an online service, you use new tools for an ancient activity. Even with all the screens and wires and chips and lines it still comes down to people talking to each other.

John Coate. Cyberspace Innkeeping: Building Online Community. 1993.
Online: http://gopher.well.sf.ca.us:70/0/Community/innkeeping

  • How to approach the problem of online community building?
  • Try a more familiar question: How to build a meeting space in meatspace?
  • You would enumerate your needs and then identify solutions to satisfy them.
  • Similar considerations apply when constructing an online meeting space.
  • Open source tools are particularly well suited for this. (We'll see why in a sec...)





Building Online Community
  • Sample Needs:
    • publication - distribute news and information
    • discussion - asynchronous (email) and synchronous (chat) communications
    • collaboration - group development of documents and information
  • Sample Solutions:
    • mailing lists
    • instant messaging and chat
    • blogs and wikis
    • integrated content management systems (CMS)
  • There are excellent open source alternatives for all of these solutions.





Sample Applications





Custom Development with Open Source

Sample Community Websites






Custom Development with Open Source

Open Source Tools Used






Community Building with Open Source Software

There are many excellent open source software products that are particulary well suited to building open source communities.






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Chip Rosenthal
<chip@unicom.com>

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