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Business vs. FOSS: Six Pressure Points

Nov 18, 2008, 16:05 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Byfield)

"1) Hierarchy vs. Meritocracy

"Business in general and high-tech in particular, has a much flatter structure today than it had a couple of decades ago. All the same, between titles and the power to make decisions, few people in an office environment have any doubt where they stand in relation to other people in the same company.

"But in FOSS projects, the ideal is a meritocracy, in which people are judged by the work they have done, particularly recently. Nor is the practice much different from the theory. While most projects have a titular head, the style of leadership tends to be hands-on, with those in authority first among equals. Look at the Linux kernel mailing list, and you will see that even a celebrity like Linus Torvalds is argued and questioned, even in his areas of expertise.

"These different operating styles mean that both business executives and FOSS need to modify their expectations to work together. Executives cannot expect automatic respect, while those from FOSS backgrounds need to recognize that, in a business context, their normal interaction may come across to some people as rude and insulting."

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