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Open source passion?

Opensourceguy

Yes folks, it's true. Passion is the latest open source technology. Apparently at the Apple WWDC conference, Nat Torkington talked about using tutorial signups for OSCON (O'Reilly's Open Source convention in August) as an indicator of what's hot in open source. He listed the top ten tutorial sign-ups:

1. Learning Ajax
2. Perl Best Practices
3. Ruby on Rails: Enjoying the Ride of Programming
4. Perl Best Object Oriented Practices
5. Scalable Internet Architectures
6. Creating Passionate Users
7. XUL: The Future of User-interfaces on the Web
8. Introduction to Ruby
9. Subversion
10. PHP Security

So it's official. Right up there with Ajax, Perl, and Ruby... you have passion. While I'm thrilled to see the interest in the passionate users tutorial, it's awfully funny to think of passion as an open source technology. The values of open source software have a lot to contribute to the non-open-source world, but I think the phrase "open source" has been badly misppropriated in a bunch of contexts. Just what exactly does "open source marketing" mean? ; )

[Update: turns out that there's a pretty good answer to that question at the modern marketing blog, which references the ChangeThis manifesto on open source marketing. Thanks Jason!]

But what I am delighted (and shocked) by is the new interest geeks have in these non-traditional topics. Things that have more to do with quality of life than quality of code.

One of the big hits of ETech was the whole 43folders / Getting Things Done stuff. I had no less than five people show me their version of hipster PDA, unsolicited.

And as I mentioned when I got back from ETech, the most heavily-attended tutorial was the one on Creating Passionate Users. And they definitely weren't comin' to see me.

I don't want to read too much into this, but what the hell--I will anyway. I think it means that after years of being enamored solely with the technology itself, and the various methodologies and approaches to crafting it, the geek world is starting to look at the larger sphere around the use of the technology. In other words, not just the content but the context in which technology is created and used. That means caring about the quality of our lives, as developers, as well as the quality of our user's lives and the role we play in that.

And I don't want to get too excited about what that means, but what the hell--I will anyway. I think something important is happening, and it can only be good. Maybe we've finally stopped saying our secret stock option prayers at night ("Please oh please God bring back the bubble and this time I won't piss it away I promise...") and decided to focus on what we have, and what we can do to make things better. The whole idea of Getting Things Done is about being able to spend more time in flow, the very thing we believe leads to passionate users. You want to spend more time in flow at work, and you want to help your users spend more time in flow. More flow = happier life, at least according to the leading flow authority, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

To any of you who are coming to OSCON and will be at the passionate users tutorial, please come say hello! I think it's wonderful that so many software developers care enough to pass up, say, a PHP security tutorial in favor of creating passionate users. And that we're all secure enough in our... geekhood to even be talking about such a soft topic at such a hard-core tech conference.

Of course there's the less optimistic part of me that wonders if the popularity of the passionate users tutorial is because they think it means... something else. Like, how to start, say, an open source porn site... ; )

Posted by Kathy on June 21, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Darn, I _really_ wish I could be there! Your blog is one of the must-read resources I pass to other software developers, and a tutorial like that would give me a fantastic opportunity to meet other people also crazy about creating and supporting communities.

It isn't ungeeky to care about people or "soft" topics. In fact, I think it's a natural part of geekhood. After all, to geek is to strive to understand. When I was teaching, I thought of it as hacking people's brains. (It's really hard pinpointing exactly what the misconceptions are and fixing them--much much harder than debugging a computer program!) I'm crazy about my user community and indebted to them for the invaluable learning opportunities they give me. I love how maintaining an open source personal information manager lets me develop long-term relationships with my users and co-developers as we tweak the software to fit their individual quirks. I always tell people that the Planner community is our best feature! =) As for my interest in information organization and design--creating a culture of documentation through tools like wikis--that's about people and systems, too.

I can't wait to read the notes from that talk. Have fun evangelizing! =D

Posted by: Sacha Chua | Jun 21, 2005 11:42:36 PM

Howdy all -- I just added an update to this post:

"[Update: turns out that there's a pretty good answer to that question at the modern marketing blog, which references the ChangeThis manifesto on open source marketing. Thanks Jason!"

Thanks to Jason Anderson for pointing me to this. I'm quite fond of the ChangeThis manifestos, but I somehow missed this one. Skeptical as I am about misapplying the phrase "open source", I have to admit the manifesto (and blog entry) makes some pretty compelling points, and isn't just co-opting "open source" without a clue. I think it's still a *little* stretch in a few areas... but this description of "open source marketing" seems to get much of the most important aspects. It's not just PR nonsense, that's for sure!

Posted by: Kathy Sierra | Jun 22, 2005 1:35:16 PM

i believe that the open source movement has already lost the war, and the only thing left to do is to minimize the casualties. and we lost the war because the technology was always first, not the users.

i also believe that that is beginning to change and the focus is shifting to the users, partly because of your work (at least when i write some code nowadays i always think of what the users would feel about its results, and not what i think).

Posted by: pfig | Jun 22, 2005 3:32:22 PM

Slightly off topic, slightly related: since you are in good company of Ruby stuff, I think you, as the creators of "Head first" series _should_
check this guide to ruby:http://www.poignantguide.net/ruby/chapter-1.html .
Reading that made me feel just like your blogs or books make me feel...

Posted by: Rimantas | Jun 22, 2005 7:25:01 PM

Lost the war? Are you kidding? <laugh> From my point of view, the open source movement is entirely about community. Why else would people want to share technology with others? Sure, you've got communities and cultures that don't welcome outsiders with open arms until they've proven their technical skills, but there are also far more open communities that will teach anyone who wants to learn.

Open source humanized computing for me. When I was a student, I was so frustrated by the one-semester project that just got tossed in the trashcan after I got the grade. I hated the lone-hacker stereotype. Becoming an open source developer opened up the world to me. Instead of just being part of my class, I was suddenly hooked into all of these communities around the world, learning from people I'd never met and would probably never have the chance to meet. That was way, way cool.

Users might not come first in many open source projects, but developers do, and there's a very strong community feel to most projects. Far more than the one-way consumer paradigm of the closed-source projects I've tried! <laugh>

Posted by: Sacha Chua | Jun 22, 2005 9:56:55 PM

Madam,
Have you published any book on Struts? I am a regular reader of Head first series.I am extremely comfortable with this books way of teaching & want to statrtup with this Book only.But i haven't find any book on Struts which i am currently learning on your site.Please Help!!
Can help me to get the Soft copy?

Posted by: Shailesh | Jul 31, 2005 10:58:52 PM

Well, after long 'next level' people typically switch to 'next' software/game etc etc. Once they feel they have conqurred all the levels, it results into to switch!

My opinion!! :)

PhotographersStop.com - Where photographers Click

Posted by: Deepak Shah | Aug 2, 2005 11:52:36 AM

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