Friday, 12 October 2018

The Open Business - Business Case


Abstract:
Despite many attempts, large companies and governments’ rarely achieve the level of collaboration experienced by Open Source communities. Why?
Looked at through the lens of traditional management, Open Source collaboration is time consuming, imprecise, unreliable, hard to manage, rarely addresses short term objectives, and hard to quantify in a business case. And yet, in a digital economy, collaborative communities regularly out-innovate and out-compete closed or centrally controlled initiatives.
Backing successful collaboration within traditional business requires us to write compelling, counter-intuitive business cases which explain and justify the elusive practices of collaborative communities.
This presentation explains the subtle magic of open strategies in business terms, and will help you convince your boss to back them.


Fifty years ago Garrett Hardin described the tragedy of the commons,
where people acting in their own self-interest, inevitably will deplete or spoil a common resource, as each acts in their own self interest.
He argued that the tragedy can only be prevented by private property rights or government regulation.
And yet, within the last fifty years, we’ve discovered exemplar counter-examples where altruism trumps selfishness. Let’s look at the business case behind one of these examples - the Open Source movement.


Despite governments’ and businesses acknowledging the value of Open Source in policies and initiatives over the last decade. And despite numerous attempts. They rarely achieve the level of collaboration experienced by Open Source communities. Why?

Looked at through the lens of traditional management, Open Source collaboration is time consuming, imprecise, unreliable, hard to manage, rarely addresses short term objectives, and hard to quantify in a business case. And yet, in a digital economy, collaborative communities regularly out-innovate and out-compete closed or centrally controlled initiatives.
Backing successful collaboration within traditional business requires us to write compelling, counter-intuitive business cases which explain and justify the elusive practices of collaborative communities.
This presentation explains the subtle magic of open strategies in business terms, and will help you convince your boss to back them.
I’m going to focus on Open Source Software, but the principles translates across all types of Creative Commons - Open Data, Open Government, Open Standards, and other Open approaches.


This is what we will be covering today:
  • The digital economy,
  • Complexity,
  • Trust,
  • Motivations,
  • Innovation and Obsolescence.

The first thing to recognise is that the Digital Economy has fundamentally changed the rules of business. Ignore this at your own peril.
Zero Duplication Costs and the Connectivity of the Internet has led to Wicked Complexity, Rapid Innovation, and on the flip side, Rapid Obsolescence.

Let’s start by talking about Complexity.
Software systems have become huge, interdependent and complex.
It is no longer possible for one person to understand all of a system’s intricacies.
Solving problems requires the collective brain power of many people.

To understand this, we’ll introduce the Cynefin framework, which describes how different decision methodologies should be applied at different levels of complexity.
The framework is broken into four decision-making domains.

The Obvious domain is the area of "known knowns".
The relationship between cause and effect is clear.
Establish the facts ("sense"), categorize, then respond, by following established rules and applying best practices.
This is the province of standard operating procedures and legal structures.
Beware of complacency, over-simplifying or creating volumes of processes and unwieldy red tape.

The Complicated domain is the "known unknowns".
The relationship between cause and effect can be deduced from analysis or expertise and there are a range of right answers.
Assess the facts, analyze, and apply the appropriate good operating practice.
This is the province of experts.
Be aware of the trustworthiness of advice, influence from vested interests, and balancing short versus long term goals.

The Complex domain is for the "unknown unknowns".
Cause and effect can only be deduced in retrospect, and there are no right answers.
Instructive patterns can emerge by conducting experiments that are safe to fail.
This is the provenance of hypotheses and the scientific method.

In the Chaotic domain, cause and effect are unclear, and events are too confusing to wait for a knowledge-based response.
Act to establish order; sense where stability lies; respond to turn the chaotic into one of the other domains.
This is the domain of firm leadership, tough decisions and action.

Open source collaboration has proven to be very effective within Complex and Complicated domains, which begs the question of “why”?
Why is an open approach so effective within complex domains, and conversely, why aren’t open approaches as dominant in Obvious and Chaotic domains?

Let’s start by looking at the characteristics of Open Source.

Firstly, most projects are abandoned, and of those that succeed, most only have a few developers, with the extra developers often coming from another country.

On this graph we’ve drawn in the success rate for the projects.
As you attract developers, your chance of long term success increases dramatically.
This is showing ruthless Darwinian evolution at work.

Effectively, Open Source is an environment where lots of competing ideas are tested.
Only projects of exceptional quality attract sustained growth and large communities.

And this is a key characteristic to notice. When you are giving away your software for free, success depends upon:
  • A compelling vision,
  • Clear utility,
  • And being so welcoming and caring that you attract and retain contributors.
The study also noticed that projects which grow:
  • Typically provide fine scaled task granularity, making it easier for people to contribute,
  • And often have attracted financial backing.
And here we start to uncover the magic of Open Source.
In the digital economy, there are more developers working on your problem, than you will ever have in your team. When projects can tap into this,
Collaboration out-competes competition!

Let’s look at one of the key factors in complicated systems - trust; and question what makes trustworthiness.

It turns out we all make use of a variant of this trustworthiness equation.
  • We trust people who are credible and have a track record of providing reliable advice in the past.
  • We trust people who are open and transparent.
  • We trust ourselves, our family, our friends, because they look out for us, and we look out for them.
  • And we are suspicious of people who stand to gain from advice they give us.

We also trust processes.
  • We trust that the scientific method leads to reliable research that we should act upon.
  • We trust that the competition of market economies leads to better products.
  • We trust that the democratic process leads to fair governance and management of resources.
But, we also know that all processes can be gamed.
And the more complex a system, the easier it is to bamboozle people, and game the system.

Part of the reason Open Source has been so successful is that it’s characteristics lead to trustworthiness.
These include:
  • Freedom and Altruism,
  • Openness,
  • Bottom up decision making,
  • Do-ocracy,
  • Meritocracy,
  • And modularity.
Let’s look at these in more detail.


… starting with Freedom and Altruism.
Open source, by definition, is given away for free, with the freedom to use and extend it as you see fit.
Why are open source developers so altruistic?
It turns out that it is wrong to assume that we humans are only driven by self interest.
As noted by Dan Pink in his book Drive, after our basic needs are met, we are also motivated by …

Autonomy. The desire to be self directed.

Mastery, the urge to get better at stuff.

And Purpose,
The desire to do something with meaning and importance.
Such altruistically motivated people, who provide significantly more value to the receiver than to the giver, increases the trustworthiness of the giver.

Then there is Openness.
Openness and transparency is almost universally applied to all Open Source development and communication.
  • Conversations are public; Everyone has the opportunity to join and contribute;
  • Decisions are made openly;
  • And issues and limitations are published and shared.
Being transparent and open to public critique reduces the potential for hidden agendas and creates trustworthiness.


And within Open Source communities, decisions tend to be made bottom-up rather than top-down.
When you can trust the motivations of your community, you are empowered use of bottom up decision making.

This is important, because in a complex system, the person closest to the problem is usually the best qualified to make decisions.

It creates a culture of “do-ocracy”.
Within a do-ocracy the person motivated to do the work decides what gets done. Their commitment is a better indicator of true value than a person at the top saying “someone should fix this”.

This leads into Meritocracy.
In a meritocracy, the best ideas win, no matter who suggests them. It is the sign of an egalitarian community rather than a hierarchical or dysfunctional one.

But we should be careful not to suggest that open practices easily solves all problems.
Open Source projects are highly susceptible to being Loved to Death. This happens when a project attracts an engaging user base without attracting matching contributions. Volunteer become overwhelmed leaving insufficient capacity to cover essential business-as-usual tasks.
Don’t to overload the community you depend upon. It is both bad karma and bad business.
Successful projects have worked out how to either:
  • Politely say NO to “gifts” of unsupported extra code and excessive requests for help;
  • Or how to help uses become contributors, either in kind, or financially.
If your organisation isn’t ready to act as a good community citizen, actively caring about the community’s long term sustainability, then you will probably have a disappointing Open Source experience. You will make self-centred, short term decisions, and you won’t get the support you need when you most need it. You will likely be better off with proprietary software. (And the community would be better off without you.)

Using modular architectures, connected by open standards:
  • Reduces system complexity,
  • Enables interoperability,
  • Which reduces technical risk,
  • it enables collaboration,
  • And facilitates sustained innovation.
It means you can improve one module, without impacting the rest of your system.This helps with maintenance, innovation, and keeping up with latest technologies.

Collaboration is a key focus of both Open Source and Open Standards narratives. Hence, successful Open Source applications usually provide exemplary support for standards.

By comparison, from the perspective of dominant proprietary companies, it makes business sense to apply vendor lock-in tactics, making cross-vendor integration difficult.
Adoption of Open Standards threatens vendor lock-in tactics, and consequently dominant vendors are often reluctant and half-hearted in their support of Open Standards.

Effectively, we are talking about monopolies.
Because software is so time consuming to create and so easy to copy, it is excessively prone to monopolies.
This holds true for both proprietary and open source products. A product that becomes a little better than its competitors will attracts users, developers and sponsors, which in turn allows that product to grow and improve quickly, allowing it to attract more users.
This highly sensitive, positive feedback leads to successful software projects becoming “category killers”.

This means that most of the software you own is likely to be out-innovated within a year or two.
Your software is not an asset, it is a liability needing to be updated, maintained, and integrated with other systems.
It is technical debt, and unless a product is part of your core business, you should try to own as little of it as possible.
The question is: should you select Proprietary or Open Source as the alternative?

Open Source and Proprietary business models differ in how their realised value is shared.

Open source licenses are structured such that multiple companies can use and support the same open source product, so the market self corrects any tendencies toward price-fixing.
It enables everyone to share in the value created by technology.

By comparison, the ruthless competition between proprietary companies results in “winner takes all” scenarios. Many of the richest people in the world are self made software entrepreneurs.

These are typically people and organisations who have mastered the Chaotic domain.

Let’s take a quick look into the indicators for successful open projects.

To get insights into project health, you can look at Open Hubmetrics. In particular, look for signs of sustained collaboration and growth.

Another strong indicator of a project’s success is whether it has completed an Open Source Foundation’s incubation process.
I’ve been involved with the Open Source Geospatial Foundation’s incubation process where we look for indicators of:
  • Quality
  • Openness
  • Community Health
  • Maturity
  • And sustainability

Bringing this all together into a concise elevator pitch:
  • The Digital Economy leads to High Complexity, Rapid Innovation and Rapid Obsolescence. Get with the program, or become obsolete.
  • Increased complexity requires us to trust. So increase the value you place on trustworthiness, openness and transparency.
  • Software is technical debt. It needs significant maintenance to remain current. Own as little of it as possible.
  • For the long term play, Collaboration trumps Competition.
  • Truly care about your community, and they will care about you.
  • Learn how to describe the business case for good behaviour. It is counter-intuitive, but it is the foundation for long term successful business strategies.

© 2018 Cameron Shorter. The text behind these slides, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
This slide deck is available online.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Child friendly conferences

We have introduced a Child Friendly policy at the FOSS4G-Oceania conference as part of our "diversity" focus. We are quite proud of it, and think we have reached an effective balance between the competing priorities of:

  • High cost of dedicated childcare.
  • Variability and unpredictability of different aged children.
  • Retaining a professional conference environment.
  • Respecting needs of children, parents, and conference participants.
  • Making our conference accessible to a diverse audience, which includes those responsible for children.
Hopefully other conferences will draw inspiration from our work embrace something similar. This is what we have come up with:

Child Friendly Conference

A child-friendly FOSS4G SotM event

FOSS4G SotM Oceania is aiming to be a child-friendly conference. This means we encourage parents to bring their children (still young enough to require minding) to the event, and for those children to be able to integrate with the community.

How does this work?

The conference Code of Conduct describes expected behaviour for everyone at the conference: https://foss4g-oceania.org/conference/code-conduct

Here are some additional principles for considering children.

As parents, we all know that it is impossible to expect our children to sit quietly for any length of time unless they are engaged with whatever is going on. As such, we request that parents:

  • Be prepared to move in and out of sessions as required by their children.
  • Occupy seats near exits in sessions.
  • Self-organise with other parents to manage children if there is a must see session or talk.
  • Be aware of the needs of other conference attendees, who have also paid to turn up and hear people speak.
  • Extend the principles of the conference Code of Conduct to children, both yours and others. Treat them respectfully, and avoid corporal punishment.
In kind, we request that everyone:
  • Be patient with children. They are our future leaders and learn by modelling what we do.
  • Be patient with parents. Children are not robots and don’t have ‘quiet now’ buttons.
  • Leave seats near exits free, for use by parents and children (see above - they may need to make quick exits)
  • Assist. If you see a child looking lost or distressed, get down to their level and ask them how you can help. Find a conference volunteer to hand over to.
Remember parents are doing the best they can. At the conference, if you have issues with children or parents, please contact the diversity team (as per the Code of Conduct).

If you feel that your child will not disrupt your presentation, you are welcome to bring them on stage (if they want to). Please organise this with your child ahead of time, so that you can arrange a carer or some other way of occupying your child while you speak.

For parents wanting tools to assist with helping their children get through a conference, there is a wealth of material that may be useful here: https://www.handinhandparenting.org/blog/.

What does it cost to bring children?

Children can attend for free. The catering cost is covered by the Good Mojo program. Please let us know as soon as you can if you are bringing your child(ren) so we can adjust numbers appropriately.

We all know that children can eat in amazing disproportion to their physical size, and we will cater for them as adults.

What facilities are available for parents?

The conference will aim to provide a ‘chill space’ - a refuge for parents and children at the venue. The University of Melbourne has fantastic outdoor spaces (please use them!); but Melbourne weather is not always friendly.

We are also looking into a specific space for breast pumping/feeding - however, breastfeeding mums are welcome to feed wherever they feel comfortable doing so (with respect also to the needs of your child).

While we will do our best to provide spaces away from the buzz, this is at present a work in progress - look out for updates!

Please use the foss4g-oceania-discuss e-mail list or join us on the Maptime Australia Slack to discuss with the FOSS4G organisers and coordinate with other conference parents. (Many of the organisers are also parents)


--//--

Special kudos goes to Adam Steer who has been the primary driver behind getting this initiative off the ground.


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Commenting on Australia's draft commitments to the Open Government National Action Plan

Australia has a draft of commitments for our Open Government National Action Plan, and have asked for comment. The plan has some wonderful goals, but I wish the authors had a more practical understanding of the workings of digital economies and open source communities. The commitments could be made so much more implementable and impactful. I've provided the following specific comments, along with a reference to my previous submission which is more comprehensive.

Improve the sharing, use and reuse of public sector data

Government's draft commitment: 
… consult across government, through the new National Data Advisory Council, with the Open Government Forum and with the public including businesses, civil society groups and research and non‑profit sectors. The National Data Advisory Council will be a multi-disciplinary expert panel drawn from public sector and civic society organisations.

My comment:
Sharing public data provides noble goals, but as written, government can claim this commitment complete merely by opening access to datasets without addressing the more challenging task of making sure the data is usable.
For this policy to be implemented effectively, it should tie back to measures of data use. This requires an understanding of the characteristics of data management, and should mention measures such as: quality, fitness for purpose, ability to integrate with other data sources, standards based data structures, relevance, usability, timeliness, sustainability of maintenance.

Enhance public engagement skills in the public service

Government's draft commitment:
  • Develop and implement an Open Dialogue Roadmap
  • The Establishment of an APS Engagement Hub
My comment:
In order to be impactful, this commitment needs to extend beyond dialogue and facilitating the sharing of ideas. It needs to extend to the more important issue of collaboration during acquisition, implementation and deployment.
We need to recognise that governments around the world are all solving very similar problems, and the most efficient way to address these problems is to work on them collaboratively. However, cross-agency and cross-jurisdiction collaborative implementation is the exception rather than the rule. This can usually be traced to the difficulty of explaining and applying collaborative techniques within government frameworks.
I recommend this commitment be extended to cover the providing of tools to measure and implement cross-agency collaboration. This commitment will require a lot of work, however many of the techniques needed can be derived from Open Source community processes.

Enhance state and territory participation in the Open Government Partnership

Government's draft commitment:
  • Establishing a framework and mechanisms to facilitate communication between state and territory governments and Australian Government officials responsible for Australia’s Open Government commitments to support collaboration and learning on open government matters, and highlight the opportunity for formal subnational cooperation and membership in the Open Government Partnership, and 
  • To demonstrate the benefits of enhanced collaboration on open government matters: engaging with state and territory Information Commissioners to seek agreement to conduct surveys to measure citizens’ awareness of the right to access government information, and their experiences and outcomes in exercising that right.
My comment:
Enhancing state and territory participation is a good start, but the scope of this commitment should be extended up to international collaboration, and down to local government and further. Note that there will always be more people with great ideas who are outside your organisation than can ever mustered from within. So with every policy and procedure you write, and every application you build, do it collaboratively. 
Use, Extend, or Create, in that order:
  • Use existing material if it exists;
  • Otherwise extend and give back;
  • As a last resort, create your own, share, and endeavour to attract collaborators.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

What could Open Government learn from us Open Technology folks?

Despite open government’s best intentions to prioritise collaboration, government bodies consistently duplicate each other’s effort. Collaborating as effectively as open communities is much harder than you’d think.

A number of us “open technologists” have drafted a paper describing the challenges government faces, along with our vision for how to address these. It is being presented as part of Australia’s updated Open Government National Action Plan.

Reading time: 20 minutes (8 pages).

For the technical reader: If you are a technologist and agree with this vision, please add your technical credibility by signing (see below). Diverse support will help sponsors wanting to back its recommendations.

Open letter

This letter is presented on behalf of the citizens, technologists and organisations signed below.

When addressing the updated Open Government National Action Plan, and actions from the plan, we request stakeholders:
  • Acknowledge that the indicators for success are more than just “value for money” and “mitigation of risk”. 
  • Measure and prioritise: 
    • “Effectiveness of collaboration”, 
    • “Sustainability in the face of rapid innovation”, and 
    • “Resilience to monopolistic behaviours”. 
  • Develop an “Open Government Maturity Model” which describes open government goals and the processes required to achieve them.
  • Measure effectiveness at realising open government goals.
  • Arm decision makers with accessible, evidence based research into what works, so they can trust, select and defend collaborative strategies which are often counter-intuitive within traditional hierarchically managed organisations.
  • Use, extend, or create open technologies, in that order:
    1. Use existing open material if it exists;
    2. Otherwise extend and give back;
    3. As a last resort, create your own system.
  • Embrace modular architectures backed by open standards.
  • Prioritise initiatives which can attract and sustain participation from multiple contributors and organisations.
  • Promote collaboration between all levels of government, and between nations.
  • Invest in the communities of the projects you depend upon. Ensure there is funding to maintain a core team. Reduce barriers to entry in order to attract a wide contributor base. Develop indicators for reporting on the success of these investment strategies.
  • Consider strategies to flatten government’s spending cycles, especially for community based projects. 
  • Prioritise agile, iterative development methodologies over “big bang”, “whole of government” purchases.

Background reasoning

Democracy is founded on collaboration

Democratic governments are based upon collaboration. They work on behalf of citizens, for their citizens’ benefit. Based on this social mandate, the Australian government committed to the principles of open government in 2010, and signed up to the international Open Government Declaration in 2015. This declaration emphasises how openness and technology is to be used to make governments more collaborative, transparent, accountable, responsive, effective, innovative, and empowering of citizens.

However, by 2018, government bodies are regularly not collaborating, even though individuals involved want to. Why? Old acquisition processes which prioritise "value for money" and "mitigation of risk" inadvertently cause agencies to duplicate effort. In the digital economy, success indicators additionally include “effectiveness of collaboration”, “sustainability in the face of rapid innovation” and “resilience to monopolistic behaviours”. If governments are to collaborate as effectively as “open” communities, like open source software or Wikipedia, we need to use these additional indicators.
Recommendation 1: Develop an “Open Government Maturity Model” which describes open government goals and the processes required to achieve them.
Such a model should draw from open community processes, such as the Apache Foundation’s open source incubation processes.

The allure of “open”

In the early days of the “open” movement, Eric Raymond prophesied in The Cathedral and the Bazaar:
“Perhaps in the end the open-source culture will triumph not because cooperation is morally right or software hoarding is morally wrong ... but simply because the closed-source world cannot win an evolutionary arms race with open-source communities that can put orders of magnitude more skilled time into a problem.”
Successful open communities have shown it is possible to attract more contributors from outside the organisation than can ever mustered from within.
In the digital economy, collaboration out-competes competition.

Principles of the digital economy

In the digital economy, free copying, free tools, and the interconnectivity of the Internet has made it possible to tap into the world’s collective intelligence. This has led to:
  • Exponential information growth;
  • Exceptionally complex systems;
  • Rapid innovation;
  • And on the flip side, rapid obsolescence.
While it will always be tempting to build your own system, any self-built system will likely be out-innovated and become obsolete.
Recommendation 2: Use, Extend, or Create open technologies, in that order:
  1. Use existing open material if it exists;
  2. Otherwise extend and give back;
  3. As a last resort, create your own, share, and try to attract collaborators.

“Open” is just the start

When adopting open technologies, we embrace “free access” to software, standards, and data. But there is more:
Openness is an enabler. It minimises legal and technical barriers to collaboration and sharing. Sharing ideas spawns more ideas and supercharges innovation. The reciprocity practices prevalent in collaborative communities inspire and empower individuals to contribute what they are passionate about, achieve their full potential, and collectively we all benefit.

The “community litmus test”

The Apache software foundation, like many open source foundations, emphasise the importance of diverse and sustainable communities for each of their projects. This applies the “wisdom of crowds” to validate the value and viability of each project. We believe governments should develop and apply similar criteria to validate the technical viability and community interest in projects they take on.
Recommendation 3: Prioritise initiatives which can attract and sustain participation from multiple contributors and organisations.

“Copying” is not “collaboration”

The Australian Digital Service Standard proudly states that it has been “adapted from the UK Government Design Principles”. This statement highlights a flaw in government’s approach to open principles. “Copying” instead of “collaborating” breaks a core principle of information management:
Retain a single point of truth.
Government employees should be reaching out to their counterparts to collaboratively harmonise policies, processes, guides, best practices, software and more.

“Government collaboration” is not as good as “open collaboration”

Collaboration in the “open” sense involves reciprocity, sharing, peer production, community building, trust, communication, inclusiveness, standards based interoperability, sustainability, and meritocracy.  Everyone involved is empowered to “scratch an itch”, develop an idea, and the community adopts the best ideas. This empowerment is a formula for rapid innovation.
However,
Traditional management views open collaboration as time consuming, imprecise, unreliable, hard to manage, rarely addresses short term objectives, hard to quantify in a business case, and rarely mentioned in acquisition guides. Yet, in a digital economy, collaborative communities are regularly out-innovating and out-competing closed or centrally controlled initiatives.
By contrast, Government’s interpretation of collaboration has typically been based on the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) using a spectrum of:
  • Inform: You will be told;
  • Consult: Your concerns will be considered;
  • Involve: Your concerns will be options;
  • Collaborate: Your advice will be sought;
  • Empower: You will decide what we implement.
There is no mention of co-development. In all these cases, the sponsoring agency still controls the process; still controls the allocation of funds; and still controls the management of labour. Bureaucratic overhead typically hampers contributions from external individuals or agencies. And here we encounter one of the subtle differences between open communities and open government:
Governments currently organise labour through command and control hierarchies while open communities typically coordinate themselves loosely around principles of self-direction, co-development, volunteering and reciprocity.
When the Digital Transformation Agency was being launched, Malcolm Turnbull (who is now Prime Minister) stated,
"I'm a great believer in being much more global in our approach, ... we're all dealing with the same problems, pretty much. ...  We want to break down silos, break down all of the inertia that comes from empire building, so that citizens or businesses will have a seamless, straightforward way of dealing with government -- federal, state, or local."
The first Open Government National Action Plan focuses at the national level, without mentioning state or local government.
Recommendation 4: Promote collaboration between all levels of government, and between nations.

“Open” by itself is of little value

The Australia’s Digital Services Design Principle 10 states: “Make things open: it makes things better.” As such, agencies have been publishing open datasets and software but have not been evaluating if they are being used effectively.
Making things open and hoping they will be used is like talking into the void and hoping others will hear. It is hit-and-miss.
A digital asset only realises its value once it is discovered, and then integrated with other systems. The more widely it is used and extended, the more valuable it becomes.
Recommendation 5: Measure effectiveness at realising open government goals.

Loving a community to death

Collaborative projects are susceptible to being “loved to death”. This happens when a project attracts an active user base without attracting matching contributions. The core team becomes overwhelmed, leaving insufficient capacity to cover essential operation and maintenance tasks.
Organisations shouldn’t overload a community they depend upon. As well as being not nice, it is bad business. Successful open projects have worked out how to apply a combination of:
  1. Politely saying “no” to “gifts” of unsupported extra functionality;
  2. Helping users become contributors, either in kind or financially;
  3. Minimising the onboarding effort for both contributors and the project’s core team.
If a sponsoring organisation isn’t ready to act as a good community citizen, actively supporting the long term sustainability of a project, then the sponsor will probably have a disappointing experience. The sponsor will make self-centered, short-term decisions, and won’t get the support required when most needed. The sponsor will likely be better off with proprietary systems, and the open community would be better off without the sponsor.

Attracting community

A team from the University of Massachusetts researching the success characteristics of open source projects found that projects which were successful at startup typically possessed:
  1. A clearly defined vision;
  2. Clear utility;
  3. And leaders who led by doing.
The projects which grew tended to:
  1. Attract larger user communities;
  2. Attract external developers, with half attracting a developer from another country;
  3. Provide fine-scaled task granularity, making it easier for people to contribute;
  4. And often attracted financial backing.
There are two approaches to attracting co-contributors to complex systems:
  1. Design modular systems, with fine-scaled task granularity, minimal ramp-up effort, and attract many contributors.
  2. Cultivate and retain core contributors who contribute across multiple years of involvement.
There is an inverse relationship between episodic and core contributors. Making episodic contributions trivial creates work for the core team, and vise-versa. Key to success is sustaining a core team focused on attracting and simplifying episodic contributions.
Recommendation 6: Invest in the communities of the projects you depend upon. Ensure there is funding to maintain a core team. Reduce barriers to entry in order to attract a wide contributor base. Develop indicators for reporting on the success of these investment strategies.

Modularity and standards

A key strategy for managing complexity is to divide large systems into modular subsystems. It means you can improve one module, without impacting the rest of your system. This helps with maintenance, innovation, and keeping up with latest technologies.
Recommendation 7: Embrace modular architectures, backed by open standards.
Modular systems include the following advantages:
  • Enable interoperability;
  • Facilitate collaboration;
  • Reduce system complexity;
  • Mitigate risks of obsolescence and vendor lock-in;
  • Facilitate sustained innovation.

Destabilising effects of episodic spending

Open projects are vulnerable to the destabilising effects of episodic spending.

Organisations are often willing to pay a once-off fee to add extra features to a project, but are reluctant to pay for core project maintenance. Such investment results in high ramp-up costs as developers come on board, and then a loss of expertise when sponsorship ends. Technical debt is created for the new software without resources to maintain it.

Governments are prime culprits of episodic spending. Government budgets are managed around the financial year, with delayed budget approvals, resulting in discretionary spending centered around the last quarter of the year.

Proprietary business models are better structured to handle episodic funding. They can legally restrict software use unless a fee is paid, enabling spreading of development costs over time. Consequently, government’s propensity toward episodic spending inadvertently favours proprietary over open business models.
Recommendation 8: Consider strategies to flatten government’s spending cycles, especially for community based projects.

Fragmented spending

Government taxes are collected centrally then split between departments, then split between divisions, then split between teams, and so on, until a group is funded to address a requirement. This hierarchical breakdown of budgets is appropriate for funding physical tasks such as building roads or collecting garbage; however, for the implementation of generic software functionality, it is usually more efficient for agencies to pool resources and collaboratively work on a common code base.
Fragmented spending results in narrow, short term solutions instead of solving broad, holistic and long term problems.

Think agile instead of “big bang” purchasing

It’s tempting to address “fragmented spending” by aggregating budgets from multiple agencies into a central “whole of government” contract. From an accounting perspective, you’d think that the easiest way to acquire technology is by defining scope, acquiring budget, insource or outsource the work, and then manage the developers implementing the specification.

However due to the complexity of IT, developers and users will continuously provide ideas for improvement. Projects which adopt agile development methodologies, which continuously adjust direction to incorporate feedback, have a track record of producing better quality outcomes than traditional “waterfall” acquisition methodologies prevalent within government.  
Recommendation 9: Prioritise agile, iterative development methodologies over “big bang”, “whole of government” purchases.

Chasing funds instead of collaborators

Open source communities typically become sustainable and scale by attracting a growing pool of collaborators. Government projects typically become sustainable and gain prominence by attracting funding and “empire building”.  Collaborating and sharing credit with external organisations typically weakens the importance of the individuals and teams. We need to adjust recognition and incentives to reverse this.

Call to Action

We need to recognise that government agencies are consistently duplicating effort; that government approaches to collaboration have typically been sporadic and unsustainable; and that best practices in open communities exist but are not readily available to government decision-makers.
Recommendation 10: Arm decision makers with accessible, evidence based research into what works, so they can trust, select and defend collaborative strategies which are often counter-intuitive within traditional hierarchically managed organisations.
Research and guides should be developed collaboratively, between agencies, nations, organisations and citizens.

We need to be bold enough to challenge widely established practices; we need to be aware of established wisdom; we need to be opportunistic and pragmatic; and we need to have the insight to know when to choose one over the other.

Related Reading

  1. Shorter, Cameron (August 2017). Making GovHack (and Open Government) more impactful.
  2. Ward, Dan (October 2011), Lieutenant Colonel, US Air Force. Acquisition Lessons from a Galaxy Far, Far Away.
  3. United States Assistant Secretary of Defense (Networks & Information, Integration) / DoD Chief Information Officer and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (May 2011). Open Technology Development: Lessons Learned & Best Practices.
  4. U.S. Public Participation Playbook
  5. Australian Government Digital Transformation Agency. Digital Service Standard.
  6. Australian Government Digital Transformation Agency. Design Principles.
  7. Australian Government Prime Minister and Cabinet. Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18
  8. Waugh, Pia (January 2015). Collaborative innovation in the public service: Game of Thrones style.

Signed

If you are a technologist and agree with this vision, please add your technical credibility by signing. Add a comment below, or email <cameron . shorter AT g m a i l .c o M>. Diverse support will help sponsors wanting to back this vision.

Australia:
  1. Cameron Shorter, Technology Demystifier; spent over a decade consulting to government on implementing Gespatial Open Source Software, Open Standards and Open Data; ex board member of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo); mentor in OSGeo Incubation committee; co-author of OSGeo Incubation processes; co-founder of OSGeoLive Open Source project.
  2. Nicholas Gruen, Chair, Open Knowledge Foundation (Australia), CEO of Lateral Economics, Former Chair of the Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce (2009) and of Innovation Australia in 2013-14.
  3. Arjen Lentz, Exec. Director Open Query Pty Ltd; former Community Relations Manager, MySQL AB; co-founder, Open Source Industry Australia, Inc
  4. Lev Lafayette, President, Isocracy Network; former President, Linux Users of Victoria, 2011-2014
  5. Steven De Costa, Steering Group member, CKAN Association (Open Source Data Portal) & Executive Director of Link Digital
  6. Bruce Bannerman, Director, GeoInnovations Pty Ltd; ex IT Manager, Australian Federal Government; Charter Member Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo); Mentor in OSGeo incubation committee; Former voting member, Open Geospatial Consortium Technical Committee.
  7. Stuart Guthrie, Co-CEO, Polonious Pty Ltd, Former President Open Source Industry Australia, Open Source Software developer and business owner. Current business, based on Open Source Software with offices in Australia, the US and the UK. Verticals in Case Management, Industries: Banking, Insurance, Government, Universities and Schools.
  8. Luke Carbis, Director of Product & Innovation at XWP.
  9. Evan Leybourn, CEO, Business Agility Institute.
  10. John Bryant, Principal, Mammoth Geospatial & Co-Chair, Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial and State of the Map Oceania Conference, 2018.
  11. David Collins, Independent Developer, Trilobite Solutions
  12. Alex Leith, Principal Spatial Analyst, Auspatious and Co-Chair, Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial and State of the Map Oceania Conference, 2018
  13. Andrew Pam, President, Linux Users of Victoria 2014-present
  14. Tristan Gutsche, Innovation and Integration Architect.
Other nationalites:
  1. Brent Wood, Information Delivery Programme Leader, NIWA. Ex Council member, New Zealand Open Source Society (NZOSS), Charter Member Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGEO).
  2. Ivan Minčík, LINZ Spatial IT Solutions Architect. After many years of working for government in Slovakia and 2 yrs of work in New Zealand I am very happy to sign this document.
  3. Dirk Frigne, president Open Source Geospatial Foundation Europe (OSGeo Europe vzw), OSGeo Charter member, Former Vice president of  OSGeo, CEO Geosparc nv.
  4. Jo Cook, Astun Technology, UK, OSGeo advocate, founder and chairman of Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) UK local chapter, vice chair FOSS4G 2013 international conference (Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial)
  5. Vasile Crăciunescu, researcher Romanian National Meteorological Administration, Open Source Geospatial Foundation board member.
  6. Suchith Anand, founder of Geo4All, the Open Source Geospatial Foundation's network of educational institutions.
  7. Patrick Hogan, NASA WorldWind Project Manager, NASA
  8. Charles Schweik, Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  9. Sascha Meinrath, founder of the Open Technology Institute in Washington DC; Director at X-Lab; Palmer Chair in Telecommunications, Penn State University. 
  10. Aaron Rodericks, Lead, Open Innovation, Open Government, Chief Information Officer Branch, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Government of Canada

See Also



Text in this document is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Sustainability challenges with episodic contributions

Following on from an article by Ann Barcomb, I advised on managing the challenges of episodic contributions within open source projects.

Episodic volunteering challenges can be broken down into:
  • Attracting collaborators.
  • Maximising the value of each contribution.
  • Minimising collaboration overhead.
  • Managing sustainability.

Attracting collaborators

The OSGeoLive distribution of Geospatial Open Source software has successfully attracted and sustained over 100 episodic volunteers - developers, packagers, documentors, translators and occasional sponsors. When considering the community management of this project, we summarised the key characteristics for success as:
  • Start with a clear and compelling vision; inspiring enough that others want to adopt it and work to make it happen.
  • This should be followed by a practical and believable commitment to deliver on the vision. Typically this is demonstrated by delivering a “Minimum Viable Product”. 
  • Be in need of help, preferably accepting small modular tasks with a low barrier to entry, and ideally something which each person is uniquely qualified to provide. If anyone could fix a widget, then maybe someone else will do it. But if you are one of a few people with the skills to do the fixing, then your gift of fixing is so much more valuable, and there is a stronger moral obligation for you to step up.
  • Ensure that every participant gets more out of the project than they put in.
  • Avoid giving away free rides. If you are giving away something uniquely valuable; and it costs you time to provide that value for your volunteers; then it is ok to expect something of your volunteers if they wish to get something in return.
  • Use templates and processes to facilitate domain experts working together.
  • Reduce all barriers that may prevent people from contributing, in particular, by providing step-by-step instructions.
  • Set a schedule and work to it.
  • Talk with your community regularly, and promptly answer queries.
  • And most of all, have fun while you are doing it. Because believe you me, it is hugely rewarding to share the team camaraderie involved in building something that is much bigger and better than you could possibly create by yourself.
A team from the University of Massachusetts researched the success characteristics from thousands of Open Source projects and came to similar conclusions. They found that projects which were successful during initiation typically possessed:

found that projects which were successful at startup typically possessed: 
  1. A clearly defined vision;
  2. Clear utility;
  3. And leaders who led by doing.
The projects which grew tended to: 
  1. Attract larger user communities;
  2. Attract external developers, with half attracting a developer from another country;
  3. Provide fine-scaled task granularity, making it easier for people to contribute;
  4. And often attracted financial backing.

Software is a Liability

A naive misconception prevalent in the software industry is that “owning more software is better”. It’s not. The amount of information in the world doubles every two years or so, and the amount of software created is innovating at a similar rate. This means that most software will be out-innovated within a year or two unless it is continually maintained.
Your software is not an asset, it is a liability needing to be updated, maintained, and integrated with other systems. It is technical debt, and you should try to own as little of it as possible.
To ensure long term sustainability, it is increasingly important to spread the software maintenance cost, either by collaborating within an open source community, or by using a proprietary business model to aggregate license fees which are spent on a central product. Both models have their strengths and weaknesses, but for this essay we will focus on the open source model.

Cultivate your core team

Successful open source projects become large. With size comes complexity, which increases ramp up time and hinders casual contributions. The key strategies to address complexity are:
  1. Design modular systems, such that someone can quickly contribute to a specific task with trivial or minimal ramp-up effort.
  2. Cultivate and retain a core team who can spread ramp-up effort across multiple years of project involvement.
Established collaborative projects will have addressed both these use cases.

Episodic sponsorship

Open source projects are vulnerable to episodic sponsorship. Organisations are often willing to pay a once off fee to add extra features, but are reluctant to pay for core project maintenance. Such investment strategies are destabilising for a project’s core team as sponsored contributors tend to leave when sponsorship ends, leaving behind a technical debt of extra software without the acquired knowledge or resources to maintain the software.
Proprietary vendors are better structured for handling episodic funding. They can legally restrict software use unless a fee is paid, enabling Software-as-a-Service business models. License fees are then aggregated and spent sustainably over time.

Loved to death

Similarly, open source projects are susceptible to being “loved to death”. This happens when a project attracts an engaging user base without attracting matching contributions. The core team becomes overwhelmed leaving insufficient capacity to cover essential business-as-usual tasks.
Sponsoring organisations need to learn not to overload the community they depend upon. It is both bad karma and bad business. Successful open source projects have worked out how to apply a combination of:
  1. Politely saying NO to “gifts” of unsupported extra code and excessive requests for help;
  2. Help uses become contributors, either in kind or financially;
  3. Minimising the onboarding effort for both contributors and the project’s core team. 
If a sponsoring organisation isn’t ready to act as a good community citizen, actively caring about the long term sustainability of the communities they depend upon, then they will probably have a disappointing open source experience. They will make self-centred, short term decisions, and won’t get the support they need when they most need it. They will likely be better off with proprietary software. (And the community would be better off without them.)

Government agencies and episodic contributions

Governments deserve special mention. Governments all have a social mandate to provide services to their citizens. They are a prime candidate for engaging with the collaborative practices of open source software projects.
Drawing from these principles, governments around the world have been signing up to the Open Government Declaration which emphasises how openness and technology should be used to enable governments to be more collaborative, transparent, accountable, responsive, effective, innovative, and empowering of citizens. However, the episodic, fractured and short-term purchasing practices prevalent within government significantly undermines the collaborative potential between agencies and the communities that governments could be working with.
Let’s consider the key challenges.

Sporadic spending

Government budgets are managed around a financial year, with budget approvals often not being achieved until well into the year and not spent until the last quarter of the year. As explained earlier, such episodic spending is significantly destabilising to the people and companies who provide open source software services and favours proprietary business models instead.

Chasing funds instead of collaborating

Open source communities typically become sustainable and scale by collaborating rather than by chasing funding. Things are different within government agencies who are typically motivated to address short term goals with internal resourcing or by securing funding. The team’s importance is determined by the size of budget secured, not by the level of collaboration. In fact, collaboration and sharing the credit typically weakens the importance and need for the agency’s team.

Fragmented spending

Government taxes are collected centrally then split between departments, then split between divisions, then split between teams, and so on, until a group is funded to address a requirement. This hierarchical breakdown of budgets is appropriate for funding physical tasks such as building roads or collecting garbage; however, for the implementation of generic software functionality, it is usually more efficient for agencies to collaboratively work on a common code base. Fragmented spending results in solving narrow, short term problems instead of thinking holistically and long term.

Big Bang Purchasing

One of government’s solution to fragmented spending is “Big Bang” purchasing. Recognising a need, sourcing budget, going through an elaborate purchasing process, and engaging a primary contractor to provide proprietary software to implement the requirements. This methodology also has significant limitations, prone to project overruns, outdated and inflexible requirements, monopolistic practices which prevent information sharing and more.

Conclusion

There is a symbiotic relationship between episodic contributors and a project’s core team. A core team is needed to attract a community and simplify the contribution process. The community provides valuable contributions to the project. Everyone benefits from the product created.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Tackling the Open Source dilemma




Here is the dilemma that you and your boss are faced with when considering Open Source:
Looked at through the lens of traditional management, Open Source collaboration is time consuming, imprecise, unreliable, hard to manage, rarely addresses short term objectives, and is hard to quantify in a business case. And yet, in a digital economy, collaborative communities regularly out-innovate and out-compete closed or centrally controlled initiatives.
So how do we justify following a more effective, sustainable, open and equitable strategy?



This is what we will be covering today:
  • The digital economy,
  • Complexity,
  • Trust,
  • Innovation and Obsolescence,
  • and what leads to Success or Failure.


The first thing to recognise is that the Digital Economy has fundamentally changed the rules of business. Ignore this at your own peril.
Zero Duplication Costs and the Connectivity of the Internet has led to Wicked Complexity, Rapid Innovation, and on the flip side, Rapid Obsolescence.

Let’s start by talking about Complexity.
Software systems have become huge, interdependent and complex.
It is no longer possible for one person to understand all of a system’s intricacies.
So decision makers need to assume, deduce and trust information provided by others.
It means that sourcing trustworthy advice has become a key criteria for success in the digital economy.
So how do we assess trustworthiness?

It turns out we all use a variant of this trustworthiness equation.

  • We trust people who are credible and who have have track record of providing reliable advice in the past.
  • We trust people who are open and transparent.
  • We trust ourselves, our family, our friends, because they look out for us, and we look out for them.
  • We are suspicious of people who stand to gain from advice they give us.

We also trust processes.
  • We trust that the democratic process leads to fair governance and management of resources.
  • We trust that the scientific method leads to reliable research that we should act upon.
  • We trust that the “survival of the fittest” competition of market economies leads to better products.

But we also know that all processes can be gamed.
And the more complex a system, the easier it is to bamboozle people and game the system.

Part of the reason Open Source has been so successful is that it’s characteristics lead to trustworthiness.
These characteristics include:
  • Freedom,
  • Altruism,
  • Openness,
  • Meritocracy,
  • and Do-ocracy.
Let’s break these down one by one.

Open source, by definition, provides the receivers of the software with the four freedoms:
  1. Freedom to use the software unencumbered; 
  2. Freedom to study the source code and find out how it works; 
  3. Freedom to modify, retask, and improve the code;
  4. Freedom to copy and share with others.
Providing such a valuable gift, which provides significantly more value to the receiver than to the giver, increases the trustworthiness of the giver.

Additionally, openness and transparency is almost universally applied to all Open Source development practices and communication.
  • Conversations are public; Everyone has the opportunity to join and contribute; 
  • Decisions are made openly; 
  • Issues and limitations are published and shared.
Being transparent and open to public critique reduces the potential for hidden agendas and creates trustworthiness.

In a meritocracy, the best ideas win, no matter who suggests them. It is the sign of an egalitarian community rather than a hierarchical or dysfunctional one.


With a do-ocracy the person motivated to do the work decides what gets done. In complex systems, the person closest to the problem will usually be best qualified to make the technical decisions.



A key strategy for managing complexity is to divide large systems into modular subsystems.
Using modular architectures, connected by open standards:
  • Reduces system complexity,
  • Enables interoperability,
  • Which reduces technical risk,
  • And facilitates sustained innovation.
It means you can improve one module, without impacting the rest of your system. This helps with maintenance, innovation, and keeping up with latest technologies.

Collaboration is a key focus of both Open Source and Open Standards narratives. Hence, successful Open Source applications usually provide exemplary support for standards.

By comparison, from the perspective of dominant proprietary companies, it makes business sense to apply vendor lock-in tactics, making cross-vendor integration difficult. Adoption of Open Standards threatens vendor lock-in tactics, and consequently dominant vendors are often reluctant and half-hearted in their support of Open Standards.

In the digital economy there are two dominant business models which work well.
Either:
  • You solve a generic problem by supplying an awesome "category killer" application which you distribute to the world; 
  • Or you provide personalised, specialised or localised services, typically using category killer applications.
There is a natural symbiotic relationship between the two.
If you are solving a generic problem, by yourself, you will be out-innovated!
There are simply more developers in the rest of the world than you can ever muster within your team.

Because software is so time consuming to create and so easy to copy, it is excessively prone to monopolies.
This holds true for both proprietary and open source products. A product that becomes a little better than its competitors will attracts users, developers and sponsors, which in turn allows that product to grow and improve quickly, allowing it to attract more users.
This highly sensitive, positive feedback leads to successful software projects becoming “category killers”.

This means that most of the software you own will be out-innovated within a year or two.
Your software is not an asset, it is a liability needing to be updated, maintained, and integrated with other systems. It is technical debt, and you should try to own as little of it as possible.
The question is: should you select Proprietary or Open Source as the alternative?


Openness democratises wealth and power, which is a good thing for all of us, even those with wealth and power.
Open Source and Proprietary business models differ in how their realised value is shared.
Open source licenses are structured such that multiple companies can use and support the same open source product, so the market self corrects any tendencies toward price-fixing.
Effectively, Open Licenses democratise information.
It enables everyone to share in the value created by technology.
As software markets mature, and components become generic commodity items, the collaborative practices of Open Source moves to becoming the most effective means for creating and managing functionality.
Collaboration trumps Competition for commodity items!

By comparison, the ruthless competition between proprietary companies results in “winner takes all” scenarios. Many of the richest people in the world are self made software entrepreneurs.
Jeff Bezos who started Amazon has recently been ranked as the richest man in the world, stealing the spot from Bill Gates who started Microsoft. Mark Zuckerberg who started Facebook comes in at number 5. Jack Dangermond from ESRI is down at #603, with a mere $3.2 billion dollars to his name.

Lets explain this another way, following the money trail. Proprietary business model favours multi-nationals who establish themselves in big markets such as in the US or Europe.
From our Australian software spend, a small commission is provided to the local sales guy and systems integrator, and the rest is funnelled into the multinational who often farms development into cheap development centres.


Open Source on the other hand favours local business. The software is free, so the majority of money spent is on support and integration type services, which is typically applied locally, keeping money and expertise local.



Let’s look into the characteristics which make projects successful or not.
Open Source projects are highly susceptible to being Loved to Death. This happens when a project attracts an engaging user base without attracting matching contributions. Volunteers become overwhelmed leaving insufficient capacity to cover essential business-as-usual tasks.
Don’t overload the community you depend upon. It is both bad karma and bad business.
Successful projects have worked out how to either:
  • Politely say NO to “gifts” of unsupported extra code and excessive requests for help;
  • Or how to help uses become contributors, either in kind, or financially.
If your organisation isn’t ready to act as a good community citizen, actively caring about the community’s long term sustainability, then you will probably have a disappointing Open Source experience. You will make self-centred, short term decisions, and you won’t get the support you need when you most need it. You will likely be better off with proprietary software. (And the community would be better off without you.)
The success criteria for Open Source projects was researched by Professor Charlie Schweik who studied thousands of projects. As you can see from this graph, most projects are abandoned. Of the remainder, most projects don’t attract more than one or two staff, and very few attract a large community.
Viewed another way, you can see that:
  • 4/5 projects are abandoned.
  • 1 in 7 remain with just 1 or 2 developers.
  • Only 1 in 100 manage to attract 10 core contributors.
On this graph we’ve drawn in the success rate for projects, and you can see that as you attract developers, your chance of long term success increases dramatically.
This is showing ruthless Darwinian evolution at work. Only projects of exceptional quality attract sustained growth and large communities. They fit in the “magic unicorn” category.



So how do you find these magic unicorn projects?
Charlie’s team distilled further insights from their research. They found that successful projects typically possess:
  • A clearly defined vision;
  • Clear utility;
  • And leaders who lead by doing.
Then projects which manage to attract a medium to large team tend to:
  • Provide fine scaled task granularity, making it easier for people to contribute;
  • And often have attracted financial backing.


To get insights into project health, you can look at Open Hub metrics.  This slide is from the OSGeo-Live project and shows the status of leading Desktop GIS applications.
And for QGIS you can see that it has a very healthy community with over 100 active contributors. 
Another strong indicator of a project’s success is whether it has completed an Open Source Foundation’s incubation process.
  • Quality
  • Openness
  • Community Health
  • Maturity
  • Sustainability


Bringing this all together into a concise elevator pitch for your boss:
  • The Digital Economy leads to High Complexity, Rapid Innovation and Rapid Obsolescence. Get with the program, or become obsolete.
  • Increased complexity requires us to trust more. So increase the value you place on trustworthiness, openness and transparency. 
  • Software is technical debt. It needs significant maintenance to remain current. Own as little of it as possible.
  • Collaboration and openness fast tracks innovation.
  • For the long term play, Collaboration trumps Competition. If you are solving a generic problem, by yourself, you will be out innovated! Value, recognise, select and apply collaborative practices.
  • Don’t be naive, most Open Source projects fail. Learn how to pick winners.
  • Openness and Collaboration leads to the democratisation of wealth and power. Learn how to be part of the community - it makes good business sense.



  • Slide deck is available online.
  • An earlier version of these slides was presented at QGIS Conference in Sydney, Australia, November 2017. It was restructured for print and published as an article in the August 2018 edition of Position Magazine.
  • The text behind these slides, by Cameron Shorter, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
  • If this presentation was of interest to you, then please let me know (use comments below or email address on the slide above). I enjoy hearing from people who share similar interests, or are facing similar challenges, and ideas people have on related topics. 
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