The Art of Community

Jono Bacon at Ubuntu is writing a book on communities -- The Art of Community. I`m looking forward to this book. And I`m glad he`s writing it from his view at Ubuntu. I`m trying to follow Ubuntu more lately. I don`t know too much about the community, but I met some Ubuntu guys in Tokyo a while back and I also met Jono at CommunityOne last year and found him to be a very cool guy.

The reason I want to read this book is to learn more and learn faster. There is so much opportunity here. Back when we launched the OpenSolaris project four years ago I kept saying we should look at other communities and observe how they evolve and how they build and manage themselves through various circumstances. All communities are different and have to manage diverse challenges, but they also share many common elements. I do some reading on this, but where I most closely touch other communities live is in Tokyo with the Linux guys (TLUG) and Web 2.0 guys (Tokyo2Point0) and also with some photography things I do here. Hanging out with these communities has given me a fantastic perspective to juxtapose with OpenSolaris and bring to my activities here. I highly recommend participating in other communities. It doesn`t matter what kind of community, too. The point is to contribute somewhere. That`s where the real lessons are learned. And that`s what makes a community. If you can contribute and earn your own way and gain recognition and trust as a result in some sort of meritocracy, then that`s a little community. Value that. Grow that. Promote that concept as the foundation of the community.

On OpenSolaris we have made a lot of progress in some ways and hundreds of people all over the place are contributing to multiple projects, but in other ways we are still struggling to find our way. This is normal to a certain degree. It`s not a criticism, per say. All projects in all industries are basically learning mechanisms. They start from somewhere and grow. Those that learn, live and grow more. Those that don`t, rot and die. You can`t avoid this. Also, if you are open minded enough to learn, that will help spark your imagination. And that`s far more important than thinking you actually know something or repeating the same thing over and over again. Einstein used to say something like that, and he knew a great deal more than most.

Anyway, what has been most gratifying within the OpenSolaris Community is that the OpenSolaris User Group Community (which we currently call the Advocacy Community) has been growing and learning steadily since Day One. We`ve made mistakes and adjusted along the way. Not only that but the overall personalty of the OSUGs seems clearly defined by global cooperation and openness, not internal conflict and bureaucracy. Have you noticed this too? I`m on all the OSUG lists and I see people talking about technology, doing events, and basically just hanging out and hacking on OpenSolaris. Quite literally, a culture is forming. And it`s spread out among dozens of languages, cultures, and countries. Some people are more active than others, some are more passionate than others, some are more technical than others. But everywhere I look on the OSUG lists I see that everyone is welcome. And the entire thing is just moving along at its own understated pace with relatively few resources and very little structure. I mean, really, we give some web space, a mailing list, and some t-shirts. Not much stuff. And not much process. But more than enough to get started. And it seems that we grow faster as a community when we reduce our processes. Granted, we are still very small (around 5,000 people) within the entire OpenSolaris community (which is way bigger), but revolutions have started with far less. And you have to start somewhere, right? I get this same feeling on some other OpenSolaris projects as well, where people have just been working all along since Day One doing what they can with what they have.

I find this stuff fascinating because the concept of the community is for all of us. You don`t have to have power or money or title to join. You can just show up and participate and contribute and learn. That`s what impresses me about open source communities. Jono`s book should be a very cool contribution to all this. I need the ideas. :) This stuff is an art indeed.


Hi Jim,

Thanks so much for the kind comments about the book! I hope it will be useful for your work with OpenSolaris. You guys seem to be rocking! :)

By the way, as I write the book, I am posting updates and also will be asking for feedback on community issues to merge in. I would love your feedback. I am doing this at the website at



Posted by Jono Bacon on January 18, 2009 at 08:00 PM JST #

Thanks. We are doing good on many fronts (a few distros, a Sun distro, some solid contributions, lot of new user groups, etc). But we still need a great deal of work on open development and governance -- both of which have proven to be much more difficult than we had realized. But, I'm positive long term. I'll be over at your blog for sure. :)

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on January 19, 2009 at 02:49 AM JST #

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