Get updates by email or on Twitter at @hughdurkin

Open Source Is Demand Gen For The Enterprise

Jesse Williams, of Amazon Web Services, published a great essay "The jointly exhaustive relationship between open source and enterprise growth."

In it, he describes the interplay between developer marketing, open source, and technical product marketing. It's a fun topic, but mostly for not-so-fun reasons.

Not fun because - a lot of the time - interplay between these areas and teams is limited. At best.

Jesse was eager to hammer this point home:

"Open source projects have become dependent on the enterprise to fund their existence and the enterprise has become dependent on open source to champion industry standards and lower the barriers and cost of building new software. When we look at the growth of these joint strategies, the relationship is nothing less than jointly exhaustive. I can’t emphasize this enough, open source marketing/community building is demand gen for the enterprise, and demand gen for the enterprise is open source marketing/community building."

He's right. And, as a recovering Product Manager who owned broad surface areas of developer facing products in the past, I understand exactly what he means.

Too often we believe product development is a "top down" exercise. We do the research, talk to customers, plan sprints, create some release materials, and - in theory - we're done. Problem solved. We have full, complete control over what gets built, and how customers use it.

That is, of course, complete and utter nonsense.

Just as Product Managers can't control how customers use the products they build, enterprises can't control how open source projects evolve, or how developers might create value atop the "Platform" surface area they make available.

Nor should they try to control them. You can't "control" a community of humans. But, if you trust humans and support them in the right ways, they're likely to create more innovation and value compared to a "top down" approach.

Let's not forget, Facebook didn't create Facebook Pages - Facebook's users did. Twitter didn't invent the hashtag - Chris Messina (a Twitter user) did. McDonald's didn't invent the Big Mac, Egg McMuffin, or Filet-o-Fish - their franchisees did.

Innovation is an iterative process, and innovation is a bottoms-up exercise - not the other way round. The Wisdom of Crowds always wins.