Don’t Confuse Community with Customers

Open source is first and foremost about the community. It is the core, the heart and soul, of an open source project. GPL or not, it is the community that tinkers with software whatever and however they want. It is the realization of Stallman’s philosophy of freedom in software. As such, many open source projects subscribe to GPL as the core license while businesses adopt a permissive or proprietary license on top of it.

Having said that, it implies that in the spirit of open source, it is wise not to sell anything to your community.

Here’s why: (courtesy of stephesblog)

The Community

They have time but NO money

They want a problem solved and look to the project

They can’t be converted

They can contribute time, so:
What do you want them to do?
What do you need to enable?
What do you need to let them know?

They will not waste time, so the project needs to solve a problem for them before they will invest themselves in it

The Customers

They have money and no time

They want a problem solved and look to the product

Your Community is the litmus test of solution viability.

You manage leads through the qualification pipeline and conversion process like any other customer-focused sales process

Case in point: Canonical has a community but at the same time, introducing features to Ubuntu (and derivatives) that are at best directed to would-be customers. The project has to be sustainable (nothing wrong with that) but as the project sponsor, you don’t want to alienate your community. Linux Mint is a true open source community. Linux Mint is what Ubuntu should have been, no strings atached, no bottomline to mess with. Just good and fun community. Well, we should thank Canonical anyhow. Without Ubuntu, there would be no Linux Mint. But I digress 🙂