Thursday, January 26, 2012

Building innovation nodes through Free Software Communities

Global Free Software Communities (GFSC from now on) are a proof that Silicon Valley model is an industrial innovation and business model from past century. GFSC are building, not just great products, but creating new engineering procedures and tools, new ways of governance models, supporting and promoting new legal improvements in some areas, creating its own identity, its own culture and becoming politically active promoting freedom in the digital world.

Communities attract many young talents and professional by allowing them to grow personally, technically and professionally while developing software anyone can use. GFSC represent a mirror to some new movements and a relevant help to others.

Traditionally key stakeholders has seen GFSC as a R&D ecosystem and a hiring environments. Lately, we are facing a significant change. Smaller companies are getting more and more involved with a new purpose, to share the development of a technology or product to base their business upon. This is specially true in vertical (product oriented) communities, like Drupal or Joomla, for example.

We are also seeing some companies succeeding in building communities around their products, creating a new type of communities driven, but not owned, by them.

All this innovation is taking place through internet, starring geographically distributed teams who usually know each other if they collaborate in the same community but do not if they are members of different ones.

I believe that we have a good opportunity in the following years of creating impact in many places with what we do if we are able to create nodes where all that we do in communities can be translate it to local agents/actors so they can adapt our procedures, use our software, create their own, build a local business sector around the software, help other sectors grow, etc. and, at the same time, attract more contributors to our communities, give us very useful feedback and give us resources to increase our activity.

Different communities have done different actions in order to accomplish these goals. We have experiences from all over the world where Libre Software has been used/deployed/develop with a concrete purpose and certain measurable results. Big companies and Public Administrations has also develop many experiences. 

But overall, it seems to me that we haven't yet get the solution to spread our "innovation and culture" in a structured manner, so every community can repeat some basic processes to grow locally and get feedback from these initiatives. For several reasons, many people out there are using our software, but GFSC and the local agents are not properly connected so any of them are taking all the possible advantage. It is hard for us get benefit out of it to let our communities grow. Most of the time it is just a one way street...

GFSC want new contributors that allow us to build new code (and related activities) along with new power users to test and notify bugs and possible improvements. We use internet as the main communication channel and organize events all over the world to accomplish that goal. It takes an affordable amount of resources to execute those action and support the needed infrastructure that allow us to grow every year. But that growth is linear and have little impact in a localized area most of the time. I guess the strategy must be different if we want to create well established local nodes to generate a big impact. And spread them.

How can we move that distributed innovation done by GFSC to a certain geographic area? How an innovation node that helps local economy giving engineers, companies, etc. new chances can be created ? How can we do it in a way that GFSC get feedback? How do we replicated and spread them? Is it possible to do it by ourselves, with our own culture?

I'll write a couple of posts during the following days with some ideas I have related with this topic. These ideas are the fundamentals of a proposal sent to a City Council from Spain to try to create a local node of innovation related through Free Software Communities.

If you know an example of local groups of people that have done sustainable actions in a certain area resulting in increasing the number of contributors in a specific GFSC along with improving the local economy, promoting the creation of local companies, deploying new tools, bringing users to Free Software, etc. please add a link or write s brieft summary. I would like to know about it.

There are several more recent posts about this topic. Please chack them if you are interested: 

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