What we wish we had known when we started working on free open source software (FOSS) – that is the premise of this essay collection, Open Advice. What’s especially interesting to me after having read all 42 essays is there isn’t really a pattern like you’d see when looking at “what I would tell my younger self” such as “believe in yourself” or “don’t worry about what others think.” Those themes do come through, but the heart of the collection centers on open source projects, software, users, coders, and the myriad roles that make an open source project great. It’s a collection of great stories and great experiences.
One theme that stuck out to me was “I wish I had been less arrogant.” So many people, women especially, can be put off by the attitudes displayed by an open source online chat room or mailing list. I know I’m happy to see more women’s names on the OpenStack mailing list, asking and answering questions. I’m also happy to note that the OpenStack community is polite, professional, and welcoming to all.
An essay that fascinated me was “27 Things I’m Happy I Didn’t Know” by Alexandra Leisse. Ignorance is bliss in many arenas, open source is no exception. Sometimes learning from mistakes is the best lesson.
I also loved the “Never on a Friday” section of Sally Khudairi‘s essay that leads with “Everyone is a marketer.” She launched a new homepage for W3C on a Friday then boarded a plane for Paris. She landed to a flood of messages about a particular tag choice. Fabulous story.
Dave Neary‘s essay about conference planning, “Getting People Together,” has a detailed section about budgets and funding plus content and parties. Valuable and practical, this essay should be required reading for both conference planners and attendees.
What did I write about? Documentation and My Former Self is the title, and in it I realize how many contradictions I’ve discovered on my journey. Often, adding more and more observations will bring a flip turn to my stance on a documentation strategy. Fascinating.
The Open Advice book in PDF format is downloadable for all and I’d encourage you to read it, enjoy it, learn from it, and share it. Then, join in an open source community with those lessons already learned.