Wow! I am completely culture-shocked!

A week or so ago, web usability guru Jakob Nielsen reported that "web users are getting more ruthless and selfish."

What on earth could that mean?

It sounds somewhere between totalitarian dictators and nursery school playgrounds, but I couldn’t imagine how it could apply to browsing the web.  But it sure sounds important, so of course I clicked the link…

What I find is that "ruthless and selfish" is defined, in the body of the article, as "users want simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task, and leave."  Wait, what was that?  "Ruthless and selfish" means "getting what they want"?  Excuse me while I make an appointment with my chiropractor for this sudden case of whiplash.

Here’s a lesson from the open-source community, to be freely reapplied by inner-sourcers everywhere: communities grow when we help each other succeed; communities die when we’re more interested in what we can get out of our peers than what we can give back.  We don’t upsell each other.  We don’t squeeze each other for a little bit more.  We make it as clear as we can what we have to offer, and what we don’t, so the other community members can choose to take our stuff, look somewhere else, or help us turn what we have into what they need.  Just an hour or so before I came upon this "web guru," I was doing exactly that in a small open-source project where I contribute.  I took the time to review a "competing product," pointing out why you might actually be better off using that one instead of ours.  Over there, I can do that freely: I have nothing to gain if people do or don’t use SCPlugin; I have a small bit to gain if someone likes it enough to contribute in some way, but no one will contribute if it’s not really meeting their needs.

In order to succeed at inner-source, you need to encourage that kind of mutual self-help.

Posted in Subversion
2 comments on “Wow! I am completely culture-shocked!
  1. the shadow says:

    so whats with all the “upsell” ads on the collabnet “open” site?

  2. @the shadow: I take it you’re talking about this site here, “open.collab.net”? Yeah, you have a good point. CollabNet runs much more “open” sites, such as http://www.tigris.org/, but this site is definitely a company presence first. We’re working on adding real projects here, but at the moment the driving thinking has a lot of “messaging”.
    My main point in the BP is, if you want to go straight to, say, http://ankhsvn.open.collab.net/ to get yourself a Visual Studio plugin for Subversion, completely bypassing all this advertising, I couldn’t be happier: no “selfishness” accusations expressed or implied. That project was started (at tigris.org) by some guys while they were students, and frankly kind of languished when they graduated and got real jobs. CollabNet revived it, because it’s serious goodness for the community. As part of the revival, we put real amounts of engineering into finishing the work and retooling the site. But it’s still an open-source project: if you do join, you’re invited to give back, through list discussions, issue filing, or code contributions. And it’s still a free product: downloads, either as source or binary, are available right there. No need to wander through our ads: there’s the link (or Google it up, if you like): share and enjoy!

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