THIS POST IS #2 IN A SERIES ABOUT “WHAT IS CORE.”
What gives a project a strong core?
A strong project has utility, community, and longevity.
Utility, community and longevity are the fundamental objectives of any project or product. It must do something that people find useful (utility). It’s not enough for one person to like the project, there must be a market (community). And that useful and popular work must be sustainable over multiple “generations” (longevity).
These goals are basic. The challenge is finding the right rules to keep OpenStack in the sustainable project zone. Unfortunately, as an open source project, the OpenStack Foundation ultimately has very little real power (like hiring flocks of developers) to enforce use or maintenance of the code base.
The Foundation’s tools are velocity, culture, and brand. Understanding “what is core” hones these tools to ensure they are effective.
Velocity – the rate of progress and quality of the code base. A project at sufficient velocity is not worth forking or duplicating. The fact that >1000 developers companies are contributing and 100s of companies are deploying OpenStack makes it profitable to remain in our community. Make no mistake: being part of a community takes effort so there must be a return on that investment. The foundation must ensure that commercial entities find an ROI from their participation.
Culture – open source culture strongly encourages sharing and collaboration. I have seen that culture as a more potent force than the legalese and licenses. While a strong culture reinforces itself, a toxic culture will rot a project like ice cream in the summer. Culture maintenance is a chief foundation objective and includes fostering new users, documentation, orderly interactions and co-opetitive collaboration.
Brand – when all else fails, OpenStack can use legal means to define our brand. This is the weakest of all the tools because the strength of the defense is only as good as the brand. If we allow the OpenStack brand (sometimes we say it’s mark) to become weak or diluted then people have little reason to support velocity or culture.
An important insight when looking at these three control levers is that they are very different between individuals and corporations. While individuals may highly motivated by culture they are not as motivated by brand; conversely, corporations are highly motivated by brand and compliance and minimally by culture.
As the OpenStack Foundation Board takes up the “what is core” question, we must be cognizant of the duality between individual and corporate interests. OpenStack must be both meaningful culturally to individuals and strong brand-wise to corporations. Both are needed to sustain OpenStack’s velocity.
READ POST IS #2: SPIDER CHART