Slide Prep: Steele’s Grand Unified Theory for Making Shit Happen
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tide detergent pods.
The open source world does many things brilliantly, but one thing it does badly is planning for leadership succession.
Glyn Moody, Learning from Diaspora
Plone is facing an increasing number of external stressors. The economy is sinking whole companies. People who had previously relied on Plone as a software application platform have begun to opt for Pyramid instead. Mozilla lures away disenchanted developers. Names once common on mailing lists and change logs aren’t seen so much anymore. In the last 3 years, we’ve lost a lot of people that have been central to Plone’s success. Understandably, there’s been a good deal of angst over this and it’s something we absolutely cannot ignore.
So here’s the thing…
1). People move on. Worrying about or trying to win those people back is a waste of time and effort.
This sort of turnover, or “generational relay”, is nothing new to OSS projects. The “half-life” of a Debian developer is estimated to be about 7.5 years; to hope for more for Plone is a fool’s game. And we’re awesome people; though they may no longer be actively contributing to the project, those who have departed have often happily remained our friends, advisors, and advocates.
2). We have the same amount of talent as (if not more than) ever, but it’s spread out over more people. This is a good thing.
According to Oholo’s tracking, the number of active core contributors has increased by 15% over the previous 12 month period. What losses we’ve seen have been replaced by a larger number of new contributors.
3). In fact, I think the Plone community has dramatically increased in diversity – abilities, geographic, and otherwise, we’re just doing a bad job of recognizing and utilizing it.
The three regional Plone conferences this year have had over 500 attendees combined, yet we still use the annual worldwide conference as our measure for community interest. At Plone Symposium South America, 18 people signed their Plone Contributor Agreements, six of whom had made their first contributions to Plone by the end of the week. Over the past year, we’ve averaged one major sprint each month, and those have been spread across nine different countries.
I received an email from a man who has been working with Plone since its earliest days. Two weeks ago he made his first contribution the the codebase. I am thrilled to have him join us, but I have to wonder why it took us all so long to call on him to help.
4). These are good problems to have, because we absolutely can fix them.
We’re still doing great things. Plone is outstanding software, and is getting better with each release. We’ve got a good handle on the directions the product will take in the future.
But the problem is this: We’ve coasted on the idea that our community of contributors is so strong and have ignored the fact that it needs to be actively nurtured to remain so. We all need to feel ownership and responsibility for Plone again. We need to stand up to cheer and point out when somebody does something awesome. We need to make sure people who have an interest in contributing can quickly find a way to do so. We need to give people the information and resources they need to make the most of their contributions. We need to promote people who have shown drive and leadership into roles where they can be most effective.
So, here in year eleven of the project, what is the future of Plone? It’s you, it’s us, it’s saying “thank you” to everyone who got us through the first ten years, and it’s saying “We’ll take it from here”.