One of the core differences between open source and traditional software development is the role of the community. For companies employing the latter, it's essentially a resource to be strip-mined; for those using the former, it's a resource to be tended like a garden of rare orchids.
So it's hardly surprising that managing communities is a crucial issue for open source companies. It's also hard, because its so different from the traditional approach that has been standard for the last few decades.
One sign that the world of open source companies is maturing is that there are now other companies that offer help in providing the kind of nurturing that communities require. Here's CollabNet's solution:
CollabNet, the leader in distributed application lifecycle management (ALM) solutions, today introduced a package of professional services called “Community in a Box.” The services help organizations that use CollabNet TeamForge to transform the way they develop software, leveraging the best practices of open source software communities to accelerate innovation and dramatically reduce the time and cost of software development. The Community in a Box package includes the services of a full-time or part-time community manager, strategic consulting to create and deliver a custom community plan, and a Quick Start template to deploy CollabNet TeamForge. The company is also offering free one-hour Community Audits to help customers understand the health and potential of their software development communities. The Community in a Box package and the Community Audits are appropriate for both internal software development teams and publicly accessible developer communities at the edges of companies.
That sounds interesting, although there are a couple of flies in the ointment. One is that the CollabNet TeamForge seems not to be open source. The other is the price:
The Community in a Box services and Community Audits are available immediately. Pricing for a basic package of services that includes a half-time community manager begins at $15,000.00 per month.
Yikes. One thing this does emphasise, though, is how valuable good community managers are these days – itself a reflection of the demand for this new and important role. So the moral here is if you have a good community manager in your organisation, look after him or her – or somebody else will.