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Business family, open source community

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Matt Asay wants Red Hat to make its Spacewalk project a true community. That’s a noble goal. But what I’ve observed over the last few years is there is a big difference between the noble goals of community and what many businesses want.

Many businesses want family, not community. The difference between the two is stark. In a family everyone is close-knit and goals are clear. Businesses often talk of their employees as a “family,” and it’s not just jargon — it has meaning.

A successful business family has clear goals. Growth. Profit. Everything is geared into that narrow channel. When we talk of a strong “corporate culture,” that’s what we’re talking about, shared values, shared goals, and a single vision directed from the top.

A community is different. A community is raucous, and the people in it have all sorts of goals. Profit is one goal, growth is one goal, but everyone in fact has their own goals. Loyalties are looser, and political skills are required to direct it anywhere.

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