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Success in Open Source


After my presentation about Motivation in Open Source, I had another one, this time even more focused on Open Source. I included, besides the motivational factors, the success criteria for an open source project, the driving factors to success and some adoption guidelines.
Also an interesting topic was the debate if to start a new open source project or join an existing one.
And if we talked about open source, what would have been more appropriate than an open presentation? (Open here is just another pretentious word for interactive). So, this is what we came up with.
Before reading below remember that in open source, everything relates to COMMUNITY SHARING KNOWLEDGE. And when we talk about community we have to divide it in two: users and developers. Here developers doesn’t mean exclusively software developers, but the ones that are giving the knowledge and users are the ones receiving it.

Success criteria

If for a commercial product, the only success criteria is the profit (or some other financial indicator related to it), in an open source project things are a little bit different.

  • Product functionality and quality. The obvious. The final product must do what’s intended to do and must do it well.
  • Community size (both of users and developers). When evaluating this you have to take into account the percentage of the target audience. If 5000 users represents a serious number for, let’s say, a Java or .Net framework, this will be disaster for a browser.
  • Community quality. This is more related to developers, than users. And that’s because quality people can create quality products.
  • Community energy or how active it is. If people are investing a lot of time and effort in developing and using something, most probably that something is worth.
  • Revenue. Intentionally I didn’t write profit here, because an open source community could not be profit oriented and could reinvest their entire revenue into the product itself, driving its development. But if people are giving money (in any way – paying for support, donations, buying promotionals) for something that was meant to be free, that it’s definitely worth it.

Driving factors to success

  • Goal. Your project must have a clearly defined and achievable goal. If it’s not well defined than you will not know what to do and if it’s not achievable you will just lose the enthusiasm and energy because you will never get where you want. It has to also be defined as long term and short term. The long term should be simple, usually compressed in one phrase (aka the mission) like: “Create a media player with 5% market share” or “Create an open-source alternative to SharePoint”.
  • Structure. Your community (and your project) must be well organized. Hierarchically and functionally. Doesn’t matter what kind of hierarchical structure you have (cathedral, bazaar, matrix, waterfall etc) but you have to stick to it. Also keep in mind what functional roles do you need to achieve your goal. If you want to “Create a media player with 5% market share” and you don’t have anyone with some degree of experience to handle the (online) marketing part, that’s a gap.
  • Focus. Always stick to your mission and don’t go sideways, whatever factors are driving you that way.
  • Marketing. A strategy in this matter is not optional. Either you want to create awareness, increase the adoption or expand the development community.
  • Business model. This is how you will generate revenue for your project, because generating revenue for your project will only help you driving it further. Choosing a business model can come later in the way, but having it from the beginning will only make things more clear.
  • Functionality – Quality – Accesibility. These are not trade-in’s in an open source project. Your product must do what should do, must do it well and must be easily reachable by your users.
  • Innovation. If you come up with something new on the market, your success is not 100% guaranteed, but your chances are totally boosted.
  • Future. If you earn the trust of your users in your project future, then you will also gain their fidelity.

You can read the presentation (in Romanian) or view some photos.

Again thanks goes to Razvan for offering me this opportunity.

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  1. May 16, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Whan, a presentation about open Source in MSOffice format?🙂

  2. Anonymous
    May 16, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Yep, I got the irony. I have a laptop from the company that I work for and it is mandatory to have MS Office. And even tough I’m a big fan of open source tools (I even introduced some of them in the projects were I was involved), I won’t install another tool just for the sake of it.

  3. June 9, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    great presentation adrian. you break it down pretty well. hopefully more people/clients open up to open source.

  1. May 12, 2009 at 3:36 pm
  2. May 16, 2009 at 8:56 pm
  3. April 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm

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