I haven’t posted in a little while due to travel (who says offline RSS readers aren’t necessary) and my attention being elsewhere. But I’ve been catching up on some reading.

First I read this very interesting post from Shaun Connolly from JBoss in response to my questions about JBoss community.

Shaun says:

“Open source communities extend beyond those who interact directly on the open source projects, mailing lists and forums, and include the users, customers and partners in a wide variety of ways. In my opinion, there are neighborhoods within the larger community that have their own perspectives and ways of interacting with the larger community.”

I really like the neighborhood approach that Shaun suggests – I’ll need to think more about this one. I’m just not sure how or why third party users, customers and partners would be differently motivated than third parties who “interact directly on the open source projects”. Aren’t third party contributors users or partners, or don’t they sit inside of a customer shop?

The point that Shaun makes about how Red Hat serves expands and recognizes their community could very well have been written by IBM, Oracle, Microsoft or any other traditional software vendor. Not surprising considering how Red Hat tracks with traditional software vendors in many aspects of their business.

Then I read “My thoughts on communities backed by companies” from Jordi Mas, (linked via Matt’s Infoworld blog). Jordi poses a few questions to rate how community driven your development is (regardless of whether you’re open source or not, because, as Jordi points out, Microsoft and other traditional vendors also have strong user communities).

Jordi poses questions like

“Is the product roadmap publicly available?” or “Do developers from outside your company have privileges to make changes on the code base based on their knowledge? (Meritocracy) Or are they second class citizens?”.

I like the questions, but what’s missing (and likely always will be) is a way to assign an importance rating for each question. So, what if the product roadmap isn’t publicly available, but commit privileges are dolled out based on merit? Does that make the company in question less, the same, or more “community driven” than a company with a public roadmap that only gives commit access to employees?

But clearly there is a difference between a community found at Apache, Eclipse or PHP.net than other communities. It’s just not easy to define.  But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.