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Recently I listened to FLOSS Weekly 79: David Heinemeier Hansson. He is a very good speaker and listening to him talk inspired this post.
We recently commented that Without the ecosystem, OSS is just a license or marketing. However we didn't discuss what it takes to build a viable open source ecosystem.
There are few people truly qualified to talk from a position of expertise in this matter. Having a hand in building the Linux ecosystem and the developing Git ecosystem, Linus Torvalds has an understanding beyond most people. Developing the Eclipse ecosystem qualifies Mike Milinkovich and the other Eclipse foundation staff to speak from experience. The work being done in the Mozilla, Apache, Drupal, and OSGeo ecosystems are also great examples in a long list. Credit where it is due, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison have developed massive ecosystems for Microsoft and Oracle. Listening to DHH speak, and interacting with the local user group, many of the same attributes are visible for Ruby on Rails.
Some of the key things a software ecosystem needs to flourish are:
It is this last point that I'll comment on today. A leader's job is to make people uncomfortable with the status quo and to get them excited about moving to a better tomorrow. Often, the constructs of this better tomorrow do not even exist yet. The leader paints a compelling picture of a better tomorrow that makes people want to take a leap of faith and follow. Listening to DHH, and having talked to people in the Ruby/Ruby on Rails community, he is doing an excellent job of leading. They get the message, understand why it's important, and can repeat it on cue.
When you hear DHH talk about convention vs. configuration, reducing redundant code, and having fun - most people are right there with him cursing the way they used to do things or perhaps still are. DHH talks so passionately and convincingly about it, you get a real sense of urgency. Being condemned to a life of tedium and mindless fiddling seems almost as bad as certain death if warp speed is not available in five minutes.