At a recent SDForum event, I was doing my usual schtick about communities, when I happened to mention one of my recent thoughts: that Google's Open Source Program Office kicks major ass. I can think of no other company that has merged marketing, PR, real code, real community events, and real *stuff* that geeks find enthralling as cohesively as Google. It seems to me, as an outsider, to be an almost perfect blend of how you develop community and derive real value from it. And as I always like to point out - in order to do that, you must first give your community real value. Google seems particularly good at both giving and getting value. Better, in fact, than anyone else.
And yet, you would have thought that the audience were a collection of cows staring at a newly-installed gate. Crickets chirped. And then I heard some push-back:
They do it for recruiting!
Well, yes, this is true. But then, I didn't say they were altruistic, but rather that they knew what they were doing with respect to community development. They invest in communities, many of them related to Open Source, and this devotion to community helps them tremendously. It helps them when they launch a new set of services, because the communities they target will no doubt be the early adopters. It helps when Google launches a new platform, such as Android, because their communities will be the source of a great number of hackers who will enjoy bending Android to their will.
As is often the case, whenever I say something that meets with any sort of vehement disagreement, I obsess over why my view differs so greatly from those whose opinions I normally agree with. So, expect to see more posts as I dive more deeply into this issue. It also helps that this happens to coincide with the latest installment of the Google Summer of Code.