Sharing across open source lines

Just one month from today I’m going to get three days of hanging out with brilliant folks from a number of open source projects to talk shop, brainstorm and generally have a great time. I’m heading to the Writing Open Source conference up in Canada from June 12-14. In the true spirit of open source, we’re coming together to help each other out. The conference is about collaboration, learning, and getting stuff done. We all have a lot to gain and I hope that anyone who can get there, makes the effort. There will be expert talks, unconference learning, a whole day of sprinting, and a lot of fun.

Sometimes in open source, of all places, there is a strong reluctance to share. I think the open source writing world is less like this generally than, say, code, but there are definitely lines to cross in writing as well. There are “published authors” who don’t want to “just give it away for free,” as well as the regular, tired line of not wanting to “help the competition.” It’s open source, people. I’m not going to go into the reasons I think that argument is silly, because it should be fairly obvious. I can understand “I have limited time and prioritize my efforts.” I totally get that one. That’s why it is cool to make time, like you get at a conference, where you can help both yours and other projects at the same time.

Coming back to the authors/professional writers, there is so much to be written, in so many formats, that unless you truly want to limit yourself, there are lots of opportunities to publish even if you write tons and tons of stuff to give away. As a matter of fact, putting part of your work out there and working with open source doc teams can put you in an even better position as a published author. There is much to learn as well getting your name out there. You also gain valuable skills outside of writing. Open source, being the herd of cats that it is, has its own challenges that are different from many work-a-day jobs. The big issues that open source teams encounter and have to work with on a daily basis are places to push up against boundaries you may not otherwise encounter. They let you add more tools to your arsenal for that day you hit a big, dream project, or you decide you want to move into other careers. I’m also not speaking from some outside idealism here. Both myself and Emma are successful published authors. We are also crazy involved in open source documentation efforts.

So, anyway, come expand your world, learn something new that your little corner of the web might not give you, and help make all of open source better. This conference is probably the one I am personally most excited about this year and I look forward to shaking things up and forging relationships with some very cool people.

[As a note for anyone going from the U.S., I am most likely going to drive up from Buffalo rather than flying in to Toronto. If you are thinking to save a little moolah by flying to Buffalo (Canadian airfare is notoriously taxed to hell), let me know and I might be able to give you a ride.]