A Community Building a Market

OpenSolaris is now 41 weeks old, and this is what some of the conversations look like. These are the data points I follow every week, anyway. I’m going to start graphing out some of the specific lists because I think there are some interesting trends hidden in there.

Since we opened, we have a total of 2,716,585 views to the Jive discussion forums and 1,236,250 are unique visitors. Also, last week — which was week #41 — marks two new records: 115,728 total views and 76,898 unique visitors. So, we continue to reach new people, and you can see from the graph that the rate of engaging new people has been increasing since about week 20.

Stephen Harpster also blogs about some of the previous conversations data and asks why we are breaking some records recently. I mean, we’ve had no major announcements lately. In fact, we’ve had no formal announcements since we launched. So, I’m exactly not sure, either.

However, I have a theory. If markets are conversations, than we are certainly building a market based on OpenSolaris conversations. Or more accurately, we’re carving a community out of an existing market, which will actually support new markets of people doing interesting new things. My impression is that developers don’t need big formal announcements to notice something of value. They know it when the see it. It’s obvious. And they are already connected, so they just need a means of connecting to what we are offering and some tools to do something with it. The “it” for us is the code and it speaks for itself. So, I think what we are really doing here is making connections and trying to not get in the way.

We now have 100 mail lists on opensolaris.org, and community members are encouraged to offer their own announcements — which they are doing at an increasing rate. So, we have distributed the announcement process to everyone instead of filtering it through one source. So, although Sun has not made any big announcements about OpenSolaris, the OpenSolaris community has been busy announcing stuff all along. Also, we didn’t open everything all at once on June 14, 2005. It was a pretty big drop, true, but ever since then we’ve been releasing more technology (entire Solaris consolidations, code not even integrated into Solaris yet, and new source, binaries, and tools) in a consistent and understated way. Each new bit we release engages new people in new ways. I think many developers appreciate this engagement strategy, too. OpenSolaris is an engineering-led effort, and people are really starting to notice that. I also think that that is where our credibility is coming from. Also, the community is organizing itself. Several dozen communities formed on the site within months, and recently, the trend is toward forming projects. In fact, there are more than a dozen projects approved to open shortly. Each project brings with it more people at Sun and more people outside Sun who all collaborate on the site. And around we go ….

So, my theory is that the conversations data simply represents the normal state of a growing community doing its work. And the community is growing because it basically has what it needs: code, tools, developers, and a space in which to collaborate. Are we finished? Hardly. Just look at the roadmap. So, expect these numbers to continue to grow. For how long? I have no clue.

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