OpenStack leaders learning by humility, doing and being good partners

With the next OpenStack Board meeting on Thursday (5/30/13 agenda) and Mark McLoughlin’s notes crossing my desk, I was reminded of still open discussion topics around OpenStack leadership.  Reminder: except for executive sessions, OpenStack Board Meetings are open (check agenda for details).

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Many of the people and companies involved in OpenStack are new to open source projects. Before OpenStack, I had no direct experience building a community like we’ve built together with OpenStack or I’ve been leading with Crowbar. There is no Collaborative Open Source Communities for Dummies book (I looked).

I am not holding myself, OpenStack or Crowbar up as shining examples of open source perfection. Just the opposite, we’ve had to learn the hard way about what works and what fails. I attribute our successes to humility to accept feedback and willingness to ask for help.

But being successful in the small (like during OpenStack Cactus) is different than where we are heading.  In the small, everyone was an open source enthusiast and eager collaborator.  In the large, we should be asking the question “how will we teach people to join and build an open source community?”

The answer is that collaboration must be modeled by the OpenStack leadership.

At the Summit, I was talking with fellow board director Sean Roberts (Yahoo!) and I think he made this point very simply:

“Being in open source is a partnership. If you don’t bring something to the partnership then you’re a user not a partner. We love users but we need to acknowledge the difference.” (Sean Roberts, OpenStack Director)

OpenStack will succeed by building a large base of users; consequently, we need our leaders to be partners in the community.