October 14, 2014

Jono Bacon: Open Source is Where Society Innovates

Jono Bacon

Throughout history, social and technological progress has been the result of people working together for change. Today community is just as important and instrumental as ever – enabled by the internet and social media, said Jono Bacon, senior director of community at XPRIZE and former Ubuntu community manager, in his keynote Tuesday at LinuxCon and CloudOpen Europe in Dusseldorf.

From political movements such as the Arab Spring, to the democratization of manufacturing through 3D printing and increased open source adoption in the enterprise, online communities have, very literally, incited revolution within the past five years, Bacon said.

The Linux and open source communities are well-versed now in this form of collaboration. But the rest of the world is still in the early stages of online community-driven innovation, Bacon said.

“For those of us who know about open source and communities, we have the opportunity to be the first movers,” he said.

Bacon challenged open source managers and developers to set “bold and audacious” goals, using their knowledge of community to innovate on a grand scale.

“Open source is where society innovates; where we explore and create things that haven't yet hit the mainstream,” Bacon said.

The XPRIZE, for example, just launched a $15 million global learning challenge for developers to create an open source software platform that will help kids teach themselves reading, writing and math on a tablet computer. The goal is to mobilize the open source community to increase global literacy.

How to Grow Community

No matter what problem is addressed, or in what industry, the principles are the same for growing open source communities. People need a sense of purpose, a level of empowerment, and a sense of belonging in order to produce sustained contributions to the community, Bacon said.

“Every person on this planet wants to live a life of dignity; We need to feel a sense of self worth and that we contribute in some way to society,” Bacon said. “To contribute we need to have access. This is the critical piece.”

This is not easy to achieve, but it's possible through strategic community leadership. Here's how to build a structured community, according to Bacon:

-Define the bold and audacious mission.

- Map a strategy, have goals and objectives and success criteria.

- Deploy infrastructure for collaboration and communication where people can work together.

- Create engagement on-ramps. Think about all the ways people can participate in the community and provide a simple journey for how they participate.

- Keep score.

- Execute honestly. Look at both successes and failures and learn from them.

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