Smart. Enthusiastic. Decent.

In my last post I uttered the following words:

You know, every so often it is tempting to get wrapped up in minutia and having it obscure the bigger picture. Sometimes its easy to forget we are surrounded by incredible, genuine, inspiring individuals, and this is a privilege and not something we should take for granted.

The point being, we often can’t see the wood for the trees, and sometimes lose sight of the incredible people that form our community. Well, I wanted to take this concept and push it a little further.

Open Source is an interesting game because it fundamentally combines two core principles, technology and ethos together in a high-traffic, detail-orientated environment. Right now I am subscribed to 154 feeds in my RSS reader, 22 of which are planets aggregating hundreds of individual blogs. This results in a huge burst of information every morning when I log in and catch up with the state of the art. Within my reader I see numerous discussions about new technology, ethical issues, licensing, new software releases, conspiracy theories, pundits opining over the irrelevant things that they deem so relevant and a million and one other pieces of information. Every morning I attempt to sort and prioritise this news-burst in my head, keeping the interesting information and desperately trying to make space in my feeble pea-sized brain by forgetting all the useless cruft that has collected over the years.

The Open Source community is by its very nature detail-orientated. We deal with thousands of bugs, patch queues, email, endless mailing list and forums threads, feature specifications, governance infrastructure, policy documents, licensing specifics and more. We have a lot to balance in our respective pea-sized brains, but fortunately we have people who have considerably larger brains than mine. Mark my words, in 100,000,000 years evolution will have driven Open Source people to have tefal-heads.

But with all of this detail and noise, sometimes its easy to not only forget that we are working with incredibly bright, capable, smart people, but to also forget many of the core attributes that we can so easily take for granted. I iterated this view many moons ago in an entry called Unwrapping Learning Potential With Open Source in which I opined (much like the pundits) that the education world is blind to the collaborative nature of Open Source and missing an opportunity to teach kids how to work together, learning from many of the social and technical lessons that we take for granted in the Open Source world. Again, they focus on the detail (ticking feature comparison boxes between different Operating Systems) as opposed to identifying the real value and the real opportunity that Open Source provides – working together to make cool things happen.

I have an analogy here. When we held LugRadio Live 2007, we had a crew of around 15 people who all volunteered to help set up and run the event. In the build up to LugRadio Live, we LugRadio gents were working like crazy to get everything in place, arranging and finalising hundreds of details, fixing problems and making sure everything was prepared. After a big night on the beer on the Friday night, I showed up with the other gents at 7.30am in the van, blaring out Stratovarious, to find most of the crew waiting outside the building. The venue manager opened the doors and we had three hours to get set up before the event opened. Within 10 minutes, every one of those crew members was adorned in yellow crew t-shirts and busy doing their thing, be it packing bags, setting up audio equipment, getting cameras ready, setting up chairs, configuring networks, putting up signs, making bacon sarnies or any one of a range of other things. It was tempting to get whisked away with the detail of the day and the worry of getting everything in place in three hours, but it was incredibly heartening to see this army of volunteers who had all dragged themselves out of bed with hangovers, disperse across the venue and work like a team to get everything set up – the diversity, enthusiasm and commitment in the crew mean’t all bases were covered, and everyone pulled their weight to make an event happen that fewer people could simply not achieve. I will never, ever forget that moment.

The key thing here is that in all the details, spats, debates, differences in direction and nitty-gritty, it is easy to forget that the core ingredients in this community are enthusiastic, smart, decent people who volunteer their time and energy to make Open Source happen. As Open Source continues to explode, and as we continue to see such huge growth and success as it spreads across the world and into different industries, we all need to remember that the raw ingredients that make this happen are enthusiastic, smart, decent people, and I for one feel privileged to spend every day with these people.