Open source leaving Asia behind | Reg Developer

June 26, 2007

Open source leaving Asia behind | Reg Developer

Novell veep warns of collaborative culture clash…he argued that software companies need to find ways to mitigate the sometimes confrontational nature of open source development, if Asian developers are not to be excluded.

If he’s referring to the behavior and attitudes in open source circles which tend to drive lots of people – not just Asians – away, then I have two comments:

  1. He’s right – this culture-clash is particularly pronounced when dealing with developers (and early adopters) in Asia. And that too in several ways.
  2. I feel the Ubuntu community has done alot to eliminate this. Which is why you’ve seen the explosive growth not in just the user base but in community participation as compared to other distros and F/LOSS projects.

There are also other ways in which the development and organizational models of free software clash with the nature of the IT world (professional, educational, and to the extent it exists, recreational) in Asia. (Well I can really only speak to South Asia.) I think the strategy for companies like Novell, Red Hat, and Canonical, and the hope for projects themselves (in so far as the code doesn’t ‘strategize’ per se) is to encourage as much educational adoption as possible, including subsidizing training and certification programs. This will feed user adoption at all levels, and there will be a certain subset drawn to the idea of contributing – for a mix of motives.

As much as possible, the cultural and political ideals need to be given secondary importance. For the most part, they don’t speak to people coming up in the Indian educational system – perhaps especially to those in the top engineering schools. Aside from the lack of a larger social context for such messages, there’s no pain created specifically in dealing with software. So long as proprietary software is essentially free in cost, and offers much higher returns on time invested, free software familiarity will remain an afterthought for most.

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