Community Ecology

I attended Tony Bailetti’s Alchemy of Open Source” conference yesterday. Insightful! Not just because of what was said about open source – but because the open source community is probably the most developed of the shared content communities – especially in understanding business models, evolution and ecology.

Peter Carbone – CTO for Nortel kicked the event off by discussing Open Source Maturity Models – and how they relate to adoption and value creation. (older version of the slides here). To summarize his talk he sees 5 major stages in the evolution of open source in corporate environments. Each stage is defined by the leadership in the company that assumes the major responsibility for the project, and the strategic importance of the actions required. The steps are:


What’s interesting is that as companies move up the stages the commitment to an open platform increase. As well the understanding of current and future core value becomes more and more important, as non-core in increasingly shifted into the community. What’s also interesting is as this happens the opportunity to capture value increases – until ultimately one is in a position to redefine what the customer sees as value. It’s the understanding the community ecology and value chain that helps companies decide what the community will contribute to – and where value is shifting to as a result of the community model.

All of this may academic to people not developing open source – but I think the same process will become increasingly part of traditional business as companies use the community that assembles around them for competitive advantage. Look no further than BT’s Open Platform project where they’re opening portions of their voice mail, conference calling authentication and location services with API’s to allow third party development, or the BBC’s Open API project that I’d referred to here.

We are at the beginning of a major shift in business models – and the companies that understand work the ecology around them will be the ones that flourish