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Untangling Open Source: The “My Open Source Experience” podcast

By Phil Robb and Ildiko Vancsa

Open source means a lot of things to a lot of people. That may be why it’s also one of the most misunderstood and misused terms in tech and related ecosystems.

Everyone understands that it has some implications for licenses, but beyond that, it’s all a gray area and many people in the tech industry still don’t understand what Open Source really is. Recognizing this and other challenges in the ecosystem, Phil Robb and IldikĂł Vancsa started a new podcast, called “My Open Source Experience,” to help people get and stay involved, provide value and leverage all that Open Source has to offer.

The “My Open Source Experience” podcast is about individuals and making their voices heard, whether they’re already practitioners and participants in Open Source communities, or considering joining them. Every two weeks hosts Robb and Vancsa talk to guests about what challenges they faced, what lessons they learned, how they navigated their involvement in different communities, or helped others get started. Guests will also share what Open Source means to them.

It might be free code, a threat to intellectual property, or it might be a business risk when a project’s license changes from one day to the next. It’s also often looked at as an overhead in the development process and costs, or a major security risk. The abundance of information sources can confuse newcomers as they easily encounter conflicting pro and con articles in their initial search results.

At the same time, Open Source is inevitably a fundamental part of the modern, technology-dependent world. Governments around the globe are starting to understand and share the values and benefits, while also discussing how to regulate Open Source software as well as how it’s being developed and maintained. The journey ahead is still very long.

Creating solutions through open collaboration became a mainstream way to develop software for many companies, organizations and individuals. It brings costs down, levels the playing field and provides access to infrastructure and building blocks to those who don’t have access otherwise and ensures shared knowledge in the ecosystem that accelerates innovation. Viewed from the outside, it might seem that Open Source has “made it,” but the ecosystem is more chaotic and fragile than ever before.

Recently, there’s been a significant surge in activity. People and companies, regardless of size, are initiating new projects on a daily basis, driven by various justifications they find fitting for their objectives. Not every project is created with values such as collaboration, longevity, sustainability, or delivering value for the common good. Inexperienced people often initiate projects in Open Source without adequate knowledge or experience. When coupled with misguided motivation, such projects are destined to fail, creating an unpleasant community experience. Is it sufficient to rely on your first and only experience in a community to understand and judge the essence of Open Source?

Open Source doesn’t work without community and collaboration and it also doesn’t deliver most of the benefits and values if you never participate. At the same time, getting involved in Open Source communities can be very challenging on both the individual and the corporate level. What’s the best way to engage? How will the company make money when it develops solutions in an open and public environment? Is Open Source really a threat to intellectual property? Isn’t working upstream just overhead on top of internal product development? And if it is, does that mean you’re doing it wrong? Have you considered that you’re not really doing what you said you would?

Open Source is not hard. The development of Open Source software and hardware solutions diverges greatly from traditional proprietary methods. This contrast can make it difficult to comprehend the complete overview, encompassing licenses, business models and collaboration.

If you feel challenged in making the decision, figuring out what’s right and what’s wrong, and most importantly, what’s the right way for you to take the next steps, you’re not alone!

The “My Open Source Experience” podcast dives into the above challenges, benefits and practices. After listening to other people’s stories about how they succeeded, failed miserably, or made something work, things start to fall into place.

Topics in the first season include: “How to Navigate Design Decisions in Large Communities,” “Money and How to Show the Value of Open Source,” “Servant Leadership” and “University Mentorship Programs.” You can catch the episodes on YouTube or other popular podcast platforms.

Please share your feedback: Give a like, or comment on the episodes to ask questions and share how you relate to the stories and experiences that people have gone through.

About the authors

Phil Robb
Is the Head of Ericsson Software Technology (EST), where he leading a passionate group of engineers developing Open Source software across a wide range of projects, including Linux, OpenStack, Kubernetes, and ONAP, among many others.
Prior to Ericsson, Robb was the VP of Operations for the Networking Projects at the Linux Foundation, including ORAN, ONAP, OpenDaylight and Anuket. In that role, he led a team of technical staff who oversaw community software development based on DevOps and Open Source best practices. Before that, he spent 12 years with Hewlett Packard working on Linux and Open Source starting in 2001.

IldikĂł Vancsa works at the Open Infrastructure Foundation as Director of Community. As part of her role, she’s the Community Manager for StarlingX, an Open Source distributed cloud project and a co-leader of the OpenInfra Edge Computing Group. She’s been contributing to projects like OpenStack, Anuket and State of the Edge for over 10 years focusing on edge computing, telecommunications and NFV. She’s an evangelist of open collaboration and is using her experience to help individuals, companies and organizations to learn and get more involved and active in Open Source communities.

Photo by Noor Sethi on Unsplash


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