Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

19 Aug 2006, 14:13 p.m.

Managing Chance, Managing Change

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2006 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Scott Rosenberg shouts in favor of incremental change, reminding me of Leonard's maxim: "A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked."

Scott also points to Josh Kornbluth's hilarious anecdotes on dealing with the unexpected on live radio.

Leonard's old colleague Karl Fogel has just written a terrific book, Producing Open Source Software: How to Run a Successful Free Software Project. The concept reminds me of Steven Weber's The Success of Open Source, but Fogel provides a detailed HOWTO on all stages and aspects of software production. I'm currently drinking in his chapter on money. Karl used to work on Subversion at Collabnet, so he speaks from experience in "Be Open About Your Motivations".

This is not to say that you can't ever come out in favor of a specific solution. But you must have the patience to see the analysis you've already done internally repeated on the public development lists. Don't post saying "Yes, we've been over all that here, but it doesn't work for reasons A, B, and C. When you get right down to it, the only way to solve this is..." The problem is not so much that it sounds arrogant as that it gives the impression that you have already devoted some unknown (but, people will presume, large) amount of analytical resources to the problem, behind closed doors. It makes it seem as though efforts have been going on, and perhaps decisions made, that the public is not privy to, and that is a recipe for resentment.

You can read Producing Open Source Software online for free. It's a tremendous resource for project and product managers of all sorts of software, not just F/L/OSS projects.

"And maybe we're supposed to see how a really human life means seeing there's no numbers there and breaking out the crayons anyway."