At Drupalcamp Atlanta 2016, my partner (Paul Chason) and I were humbled to have an opportunity to deliver the keynote address at Kennesaw State University. The topic we discussed was “Creating a Culture of Giving in Your Organization.” As we started to conduct research, there were four key questions we wanted to address:
- Is Drupal at a “tipping point” as a community?
- Why should your organization care about Drupal and contributing back to open source software?
- What are the benefits of giving back?
- How can people get involved and help?
Our fundamental objectives were threefold: (1.) reinforcing that technology should be open and the norm in today’s global society, (2.) if you consistently give back v. take then you will reach a higher sense of purpose and fulfillment as an individual (and organization), and (3.) to put a spotlight on actual use cases - a top contributor (Damien McKenna), Mediacurrent’s personal journey as a open source-centric agency, and a Fortune 500 company, Pfizer, that is leading by example.
Additionally, we owe a debt of gratitude to Jonathan Sims, an Assistant Professor at Babson College, who is doing some amazing research around open source software communities like Drupal. He shared take-aways around a few of the intrinsic motivators that inspire people to get involved with open source projects. It was not surprising that a “sense of belonging” was at the top of the list. We have witnessed this first-hand at Mediacurrent. We often say our greatest lesson learned and biggest mistake over the last 9+ years was undervaluing the importance of culture. If you can align your company’s mission and purpose to its culture awesome things tend to happen.
We also learned about how companies that embrace open source principles are reaping huge benefits. For example, United Airlines wanted to learn about how their reservation system was becoming breached. They open-sourced their code and ran a contest in a controlled environment that actually encouraged hackers to identify bugs and security loopholes that could be exploited. They gave away free skymiles as part of this bounty program. The “winner” was a student from Georgia Tech. Of course, he turned around and gave away 5 million skymiles he was awarded to charities.
Finally, we found two of the biggest obstacles to scaling an open source software ecosystem are simply awareness and lowering the barrier to entry for contributing. There is still too much of a legacy mentality within the hallways of companies that sharing intellectual property (i.e. a simple module list) or even a case study will be detrimental to an organization’s competitive advantage in the marketplace. We believe just the opposite. For instance, companies that rely on a stable set of modules that are critical to their site can pay forward the ultimate compliment by sharing a case study - letting a maintainer know how their altruism may be making a difference within a university or non-profit’s website is immensely rewarding. In many cases, this type of marketing also results in higher quality code since more people are exposed to the challenges the organization may be trying to overcome.
Simply put, this value system resonates when it comes to recruiting top talent who want to work for organizations that demonstrate their commitment to giving back through their actions, not just words. As a community, we must do a better job of positively reinforcing the benefits organizations receive by being technologically transparent and open.
Please enjoy the video and we would welcome your feedback on this subject. From all of us at Mediacurrent, have a great Thanksgiving!