Less Open Source and More Community Source?

When faced with the option of buying a car,  I considered 2 options:

  • Shall I buy a new or semi-new one from a dealership. Yes, you do  pay a premium for the same car but if it is not quite right I have a guarantee and a large company behind it that will provide support and get it sort it. Or,
  • Shall I buy it on-line from a private party.  With a lager market to choose from (with websites such as autotrader), it would allow me to find a cheaper option and to “fix-it up” to my standards. Also, I can normally check the history of the car and have an accurate guess at what might be wrong with it.

What I never considered is to walk-in into a dealership an be confronted with the following scenario: “You can take this car for free, you can inspected if you want. There is one catch, if it breaks down or you want to change anything you need to come to us to fix it!” Clearly, this never actually happened to me.

Lately there is a trend in open source that make me feel like I am walking into that sort of dealership. As a user of  platform software, it is great to have access to the code but it is frustrating not to have influence over how it changes.

Feeling Trapped!
Feeling Trapped!

It turns out that, for a standardised platform, the key is in who has a say on what goes in and out of the official repository ( long and shot term) and not as much who can see the code.  In the case of mobile phones, as an application developer I can not choose what platform version is install in the user’s handset. As a handset manufacturer, even If I can make a copy and change the code as I please, there is a heavy maintenance and integration cost in forking a version from the official platform repository.

The Symbian Foundation has decided to open the source but also it’s governance. Our software assets are owned by our community not by us. You can find more about our governance here and how to contribute here.

However, other projects make only the source open for downloading but there is not posibility to contribute  back to the main platform. Here is a case where you can not complain about your car because is free, nor you can I improve it yourself…

Today I just finished chairing the 4th monthly Release Council , and I can say that things are developing nicely! As an example of our open governance we asking for input to our Release Model decision points.

4 thoughts on “Less Open Source and More Community Source?

  1. nice post Victor. I like the analogy with cars. However, I am not sure how I can contribute my feature list to any car’s design process as of today 😉
    In the software industry, things change very rapidly. What do you and others think about a 1 year roadmapping work ? At the end of the day, mobile device life duration does not compare with cars …

    1. Hi,
      I wouldn’t want to take the analogy too far myself. I think sharing a roadmap and open it up to feedback is part of being truly open. The more information that we share the more robust our roadmaps will be. By the way, here is our roadmap

  2. Is it possible for endusers (and not those app developers) to influence on Platform Roadmaps? While a lot of focus is made on the contributing community, shouldnt a similar focus also be made on end-user communities?

    Apparently, endusers too define the success of a platform by using a Symbian based phone without knowing what’s inside.

    1. I would argue that main contributors trying to sell phones will actually be representing what the end-users need. But yes, we should also think about it ourselves

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