Skateboarding and Open Source CommunitiesPosted: 06/13/2013
I have been skateboarding since 1986. I love it. I cannot get it out of my blood. I still skate today regularly even after years of injuries: broken toe, broken thumb, broken clavicle, multiple ripped ligaments…the list goes on. This is more than dedication, skating it is a life-morphing adrenaline rush that can forever change you. I also love computers and software development and have been doing that since 1990. Rodney Mullen is one of the most influential skateboarders in skateboarding. You may not have heard about him, but this guy is amazing. He won literally every competition in freestyle skateboarding he ever competed in. He basically invented the entire category of freestyle skateboarding. He defined a singular work ethic in skateboarding that many in skateboarding couldn’t groc at the time skating upwards of 9 hours a day. But he didn’t stop there. He started a company and made it hugely successful and then sold it.
Sound familiar? This is what software developers and folks like us do in Silicon Valley all the time. Imagine my joy when one of my idols was able to articulate the similarities between the skateboarding community and the open source tech community. Recently, Rodney Mullen was a speaker at Ted Talk at the USC campus in LA. At the talk Mullen pointed out the importance of creativity and innovation in skateboarding. He says the greater the contribution to the community, the greater the response and extension by the community. Man does this ever hit home. He makes the example of the Ollie and how that singular trick development and innovation spawned an entire new set of skateboarding tricks that have come to define the sport.
The comparison to the open source community within the tech world has the same multiplier effect like in skateboarding. Look at the amazing decisions to make software like Linux, Apache, Hadoop, and OpenStack available to the community. The community responds in kind with continuous advancements and ongoing maintenance. We all benefit. So while you may want to do a startup to be successful (and to be sure skateboarders invent tricks to be successul too) the joy and benefit of your creativity to the open source community is also a worthy reward. I say this also to draw your attention to the incredible work ethic of many skateboarders and the innovative community they foster. Our two communities have many similarities.
See the Ted Talk here.