The State of the Community…

communitygrants.197120436_stdFirst of all, before I get started I must apologize. It’s been a long time since I wrote. Things have been moving at lightning pace with ScaleIO and the world of Software Defined Storage that frankly, time just got past me. But as I start this first posting of 2015 I wanted to jump back about, oh…fifteen years, and look at the “Community” that was in many respects started by the Linux and Open Source movement, and how it as impacted so much of our day-to-day life both inside and outside of tech.

The other day my wife (known in the Tampa area as “The Gardenator“) harvested a ton (and I mean a TON) of papaya’s from her garden. These were not something that we planted. They just grew as a result of her composting for the garden, but they grew like wildfire, and before we knew it, we have papaya trees everywhere. Because we could not possibly eat them all she gave most of the harvest away. I think that is the way it should be” she said. “I didn’t plant them. I have no financial investment in them, so I think I should give them to the community.”  It was then that I thought back to the days when the idea of community was transforming technology in a very real and meaningful way.

I remember my first trip to Toronto, Canada when I visited the Linux Caffe (now sadly closed) and felt the sense of community that came out of a coffee shop and cafe that was all about Linux and Open Source. It was a place for people passionate about the two to enjoy some good eats and drinks. I remember talking the virtues of Open Source at Charlie Hong Kong in Santa Cruz, CA with some Silicon Valley types who had just finished surfing and were heading into Santa Clara for a late night coding session. I remember attending Linux User Group meetings in San Francisco, New York, Miami, Tampa, Atlanta, Charlotte, Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, Dallas, Austin…all over the place, and how much the sense of community was focused on. The idea…get something from the community and give something back to the community.

That is how Linux and Open Source software really took off when you think about it. The code was open. People could take it, alter it, contribute to it and it always came out better on the end. Instead of a few people behind locked doors working on it, Linux grew up because there was an army of people working on it. It had a general…Linus Torvalds and eventually Andrew Morton would join him in maintaining the kernel, but Linux grew out of the community. A lot of world-changing projects from that collaboration. People wanted to contribute, and they were willing to do so for nothing more than being acknowledged for their contribution.

Open Source software has continued to plug along and is a norm in the Enterprise. You find it everywhere from your Firefox browser and enterprise software deployment and configuration packages such as Puppet and Chef to the OpenStack Cloud project. That attitude of community that transformed the tech world has spilled out of Silicon Valley, Austin, TX and New York’s “Silicon Alley” and now permeates every level of society. People around the world are embracing the attitude of community, and the results are staggering.

Who would have thunk it…the Crowd Sourcing or Crowd Funding would be a normal and acceptable method to raise money for virtually any project or cause. The idea that one simply has to ask, and if someone likes what you are doing they can contribute financially or even hands-on…how cool is that? We are seeing more and more community gardens (co-ops) popping up where with a small fee and volunteer hours, you get fresh, organic veggies for you and your family. We see movements like “buy one, give one” and the “One Laptop Per Child” that was started years ago. These are just a few examples. Even on the show “Shark Tank” the other night I saw a company with the model that every time someone buys their product (I don’t remember which…I was sitting on the plane trying to eat) one of the same products would be given to a homeless shelter somewhere. The trend is building and lives are being transformed through the simple idea of a community.

I think it comes down to people really wanting to make a contribution to make something better for someone. I don’t think anyone wants to leave the world a worse place than when they arrived, so the idea that they can contribute in some small way to the world around them are on the other side of the globe is appealing to them. How about you? What is your passion? What could you see getting involved in to make the world a better place? Join a community and be blessed!

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