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The Square of Engagement: Fully-baked Theory

Best BiscuitsRecently, over on the eIFL website, Randy Metcalfe posted “The Square of Engagement,” a terrifically well-crafted and fully-baked discourse on the many facets of engagement with open source.

To over-simplify one of his main points, Randy is saying something that needs to be part of our open source advocacy for 2009: engagement takes many shapes.

People new to OSS assume (incorrectly) that to participate, to be part of the community, they must get hands-on with the code (from installing it to actually helping develop it). But there are many ways to participate — from simply using the software to assisting with documentation, engaging with developers about the future path of the software, providing usability reviews, funding “bounties” (work for hire), or simply chiming in when a question comes up on a list.

The upcoming, first-ever Evergreen Conference (May 20-22, Athens, Georgia — website and calls for programs to debut next week!) is its own form of engagement — of learning, sharing, networking!

The more active forms of open source engagement can seem alien to libraries accustomed to using software “off the shelf,” where software seemingly pops out of the great biscuit can in the sky. But as we who like to putter in the kitchen know, there’s no substitute for experience — and the people who use recipes are just as important as the people who write them.

Experience doesn’t just teach you more about baking biscuits — or creating software for our users; it makes you more committed to the process — and that process brings us closer to our communities and their needs.