There are a lot of arguments in favour and against free and open source software. Some of them are technical, others are economic and even ethical. But, despite any argument, there is one thing in common to the vast majority of successful open source projects: they have a great community.
In my personal experience, I have been able to take part in several events with open source communities this year, and we are just mid April. There is a lot more to come. Let me review some of these.
FOSDEM, NodeJS and the Order of the Bee
Late January I attended FOSDEM, one of the largest conferences about free and open source software that takes place in Brussels every year, gathering more than 4000 developers and users. I met several of my CIRB-CIBG colleagues there. One of them, Xavier Brusselaers was presenting his project Doudou Linux. This year at FOSDEM, I learned a lot about Postgresql, which I use daily at work. The presentations were made by experts sharing their best practices and experiences on how they fix problems. But the presentations are far from being the most important part, because I learned even more just by talking to other Postgresql community members who were willing to answer my questions.
This year I also attended a NodeJS User Group Meetup, where around a table in a café we were reviewing code, sharing interesting tools and libraries, and helping each other. I also participated in an Alfresco Office Hours with the Order of the Bee. This is a virtual meeting between corporate members and members of the community. The meeting was exactly about that, about how the community allows a commercial open source product to be a better solution for document management. In the community, we share ideas, we answer questions, we collaborate, we learn from each other. That's what I love about open source: the community.
Alfresco Hackathon at CIRB-CIBG
These activities I mentioned above are mostly part of my free-time involvement in open source projects. The good thing is that the CIRB-CIBG also gets involved in helping communities to collaborate.
This year on April 17th, and for the second time, we are hosting a Hacker-Room for the Alfresco Global Hackathon. An event for Alfresco developers that gathers people from all around the world. There will be hacker rooms in Australia, England and the USA among others. Since I'm part of the Order of the Bee, we are organizing it together with the Order. We will have developers from the CIRB-CIBG, external developers, and Philippe Dubois, an Alfresco Engineer.
The value of the community
I have attended some events on proprietary software where the main goal of the key notes was to sell their products, just giving the main features, and revealing the least possible information on how it is implemented. Otherwise, it would make it easier for the competitors to come up with the same feature. I understand it's a profitable business model, but it's not something I want to be part of. As a customer, I don't want vendor locking, I don't want to be simply a consumer. As an engineer, I want to collaborate with my peers, so that we can solve the problems of the users, because I'm not only a developer and system engineer, I am a user too.