Governance, Control, and How to Actually Influence an Open Source Project

David Nalley | | October 7, 2011

A lot of groups fret about the governance and control of open source projects. Others tout their open, diversified, wide-ranging, and independent foundations as making them superior. People--and  companies--tend to be worried about making sure that they retain some type of influence over the future of an open source project that they are interested in. Groups go to incredible lengths to orchestrate governance that either allows them to retain what they perceive as control or permits sharing of that same perceived control with folks of their choosing.

This isn't to say that I don't think governance is important. I think governance can be an important part of a project, but also realize that it's only a small part of a functioning project. Things like trademarks and other forms of intellectual property might be held or managed by a governance body. (And for the record, I think that copyright assignment should be almost universally unacceptable for a free software project.) But more than likely, a governance body exists (at least ideally) to help contributors get things done. The more often a group has to approve actions for its contributors to take, the more often I think it has gone astray and is trying to assert control rather than empower...