Welcome to part 7 of our SpeckleCon series. Here’s an overview of the series so far:
- Part 1: Breaking the Misconceptions of OSS
- Part 2: Innovating Beyond Zero-Sum
- Part 3: Rethinking the One Truth Fallacy
- Part 4: What Is Your Data Strategy?
- Part 5: Contributing to the OSS Ecosystem
- Part 6: The AI Infrastructure
- Part 7: Real Talk: The Balancing Act of Leading an Open Source Project <– this post
In the ever-evolving landscape of the AEC industry, open-source projects like Speckle play a pivotal role. As we continue to make strides, we find it crucial to pause and share some “real talk” about the complex realities of leading an open-source project. Your passion and commitment have been invaluable to our journey, and this post aims to shed light on how we balance various pressures to stay true to our mission and values.
The Speckle Vision
Our mission to innovate the AEC industry through open, collaborative digital delivery is at the heart of every decision. We are guided by values that prioritise your success, foster open communication, and hold us accountable to deliver reliable experiences. These aren’t just words on a webpage; they shape our roadmap, influence our partnerships, and define our metrics for success.
Community and Leadership
We are thrilled by the active participation of our community; your contributions, both big and small, are invaluable. However, while the community’s input informs our decisions, it doesn’t dictate them. Speckle is democratic because everyone has a voice, but it’s not a democracy where votes directly translate into actions. This balance allows us to incorporate wide-ranging perspectives without losing sight of our core vision.
Entitlement in Open Source: What to Expect vs. What Not to Expect
Open source has democratised access to high-quality tools and information. However, this democratisation sometimes creates misconceptions:
- Open Source isn’t Free Labour: Just because it’s open-source doesn’t mean a community of volunteers maintains it. A dedicated team often steers the project.
- It’s not an Entitlement: Access to the code doesn’t give one the entitlement to immediate and personalised support.
Nevertheless, open-source projects thrive on the collaboration and engagement of a diverse community. While the communal aspect is one of open source’s greatest strengths, it can sometimes give rise to misunderstandings about what users should or shouldn’t expect from the project. Here’s a breakdown:
What You Should Expect
- Transparency: Open source means the code is open for scrutiny. Users should expect to see how things are built and have the ability to track changes and updates.
- Community Involvement: Open source projects usually have mechanisms for community members to propose changes, discuss issues, and contribute code. Your input is valued, and you should expect a platform where it can be voiced.
- Basic Documentation: Whether you’re a developer looking to contribute or a user wanting to implement the software, you should expect at least rudimentary documentation to help you get started.
- Longevity and Support: For projects backed by organisations or investors, like Speckle, you should expect some form of long-term vision and ongoing maintenance.
What You Shouldn’t Expect
- Personalised Support: Open source doesn’t mean unlimited free customer service. While community forums and discussions are the norms, immediate and personalised support often requires dedicated resources that are typically a part of paid plans.
- Instant Feature Implementation: Just because a feature is highly requested doesn’t mean it will immediately be implemented. Priority is often given to features that align closely with the project’s strategic goals.
- Complete Customisation: While open-source projects offer high levels of customisation, expecting the core team to tailor the project specifically to individual needs is unrealistic.
- Entitlement to Influence Strategy: While community feedback is invaluable, the ultimate decisions around the project’s strategy and execution lie with the core team. The project’s vision and objectives are formulated with community input but are not dictated by it.
By setting clear boundaries on what to expect, we aim to foster a healthy relationship with our community while staying true to the core mission and values that guide Speckle.
Speckle is backed by investors for whom the stigma associated with VCs does not apply; they not only believe in our mission but also recognise the transformative power of open source in the AEC industry. This support enables us to innovate, scale, and provide enhanced support. We are committed to achieving a sustainable business model to ensure long-term viability and ongoing value to our users.
Enter our enterprise partners, some of whom have been with Speckle from (before) the beginning and play an invaluable role in shaping our platform's quality. Their input may only sometimes be visible, but their contributions significantly elevate the platform. This partnership allows us to deliver a product that fits market demands and enhances the user experience. A heartfelt thank you goes out to these partners; your influence is more far-reaching than one might see at first glance.
Because of this marketplace reality, we will be better able to meet the needs of larger Speckle deployments, often nuances missed by our core visionary users but every bit as important for future success. This alignment with the marketplace is about more than just business growth. It's a testament to the community's trust in us. Every financial decision is seen as a reinvestment into our community. Our unwavering goal is to ensure Speckle remains robust, innovative, and valuable for all users, continually enhancing the platform for the future.
The Role of Community in Speckle’s Growth
We’ve achieved several milestones that were heavily influenced by community feedback. Your input has helped refine features, identify bugs, and even guide our partnership and academic programs. Despite this, our commitment to quality means that not all suggestions can be implemented immediately.
::: tip Hear from our community:
“Speckle is the bridge between different disciplines.” - Phil Southwell
“The biggest difference with Speckle is that it’s Open Source: it’s free, and you can add to it. To me, open source is ten times better than something that is closed and only has specific clients with independent visions. Open source means everybody can use it and add to it.” - Moahmed Manseur
The Path Forward
In our future planning, aligning with our core metrics and values is non-negotiable. We have new features, partnerships, and resources in the pipeline to enhance your experience with Speckle. While the community is integral to our journey, we will make decisions—easy or hard—that best serve the long-term growth and sustainability of the project.
Community feeds the ideas mill, and the Speckle team takes that grit and ignites the spark. Our team leads the project and is thus able to deliver innovations and initiatives such as Frontend2, DUI3, ViewerAPI2, and more that we are super excited to announce at SpeckleCon in November.
The power of Speckle is in the collective wisdom and collaboration of our community. This post is both a solemn commitment and a celebration of the ongoing dialogue that shapes us. Together, we'll not only navigate but also thrive amidst the complexities of an open-source project. Our focus remains fixed on driving growth, ensuring sustainability, and delivering exceptional value to each of you.
Join us at SpeckleCon: our virtual online conference, where we will focus on unlocking data to fuel collaboration, automation, and connectivity across all design workflows.
Over two days, you’ll participate in talks and workshops with fellow designers, coders, and entrepreneurs. Together, we will explore and build the tools and workflows you need to deliver and create value at scale.
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