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Off-topic: Keep open-source developer's email list private?

From: Matt England <mengland_at_mengland.net>
Date: 2006-02-23 00:55:54 CET


My the company I've co-founded is likely to covert it's 1+ year software
project to an open-source license, and expose most of our current, internal
collaboration website (which was design to an "open source community"
flavor thing to begin with) to the public internet.

Essentially, we are "going open source." (Some of you have already heard
me talk about this before on this list.)


Should we keep our core-development, email-list/conversations private?

A related question: is there additional/better forums where I can ask this
question and get feedback? Is there a community of open-source community
maintainers/admins? (I haven't see one, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to
ask.) eg, should I post this to the Subversion developers list?


My first reaction was "absolutely not," for a couple reasons:
1) Exposing our development conversations hopefully creates trust within a
community of stakeholders, and
2) I suspect we may get better development learning and input if the
community is exposed to our general-development thoughts. eg, if we
discuss what we plan to do in the coming weeks or months with a
"re-architecturing" of software, we can hopefully get feedback earlier
rather then later.

But now I'm letting the idea sink in, and I am pondering it further.

I then went to other open-source communities, particularly ones with
dual-source licenses and/or ones that charge for support or services (like
we plan to do). These tend to be GPL type licenses and not
BSD/Apache/public-domain-based licenses, and I actually this fact (and many
other community and business contexts) have a bearing on this
conversation--possibly outside even the scope of this thread. However, in
general: I would expect a BSD-like license to have a completely open
developers email list (and virtual little if any "private"
conversation). I'm not so sure about the GPL and/or commerically-licensed


Sleepycat and Trolltech didn't appear to expose a "developers" list (I'm
not surprised about Sleepycat--they seem to be one of the least "open"
open-source company I know).

Mysql and Redhat had developer-related lists...
...but they don't seem to get much traffic, and maybe that's because the
real core, company "development" conversations happen privately.

RT (bestpractical.com's Request Tracker, a trouble-ticket system that
charges large $$ for support--or last time I looked) appears to have a
wide-open development list with lots of traffic.

My general standpoint is that I will want anyone and everyone to get into
our development "conversation," even if they are black hatters trying to
expose security holes, etc (although they may look mostly at the source
code, anyway). I want the white hatters, too, and I want those to feel
like they can "poke inside" to let them. Plus I want to "seed the brains"
of those innovators who may want to contribute, be they corporate or

(I'm purposely not mentioning the context of the applications of our
software or it's implementing technology; this context would probably give
much more perspective to this conversation. Alas, we are not yet ready to
go public, and thus I must refrain for the moment.)

I didn't see this stuff covered in Karl Fogel's "Producing Open Source
Software" book yet, but I've only skimmed it thus far.

Here's what I'm considering doing:

Having a list for very private things amongst my development team, like
office lunches, office admin, personnel stuff etc. Maybe radical new
ideas, ones that can be eventually patented, etc: they may go on a private

But the general, day-to-day, and near-term development? I'm inclined to
have that on a list. The fact that some of the above folks don't have a
wide-open developers list doesn't sit well with me as a hard-core
developer. I want to breed trust and create openness.

But I also want to be realistic, and I wanted to get feedback from this

One compromise that I think worth making: keep everything open for now,
particularly because we are still a small organization (or at least respect
to a company like Redhat, with a $5 billion market cap). Then maybe
if/when we get big and need more privacy, we keep our existing development
list for "near-term" development, and we make a private email list for
more-strategic, longer-term stuff.



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Received on Thu Feb 23 00:57:02 2006

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