Odd One Out

August 10th, 2004

One of the first open source gatherings I attended was a group of 30 or so hosted by Tim O’Reilly in a San Jose Museum sometime in 1999. I had only recently joined full time, was unknown to most people in the group, am not from a technical background, and am a woman to boot. It was hard not to feel out of place.

Before long there was talk of encouraging an open source culture that values contributions other than code. This was reassuring. It’s one thing to spend my time knowing that I’ll never be deep in the mainstream activity of programming; it’s another to make that effort assuming I would be a complete outsider forever.

At last year’s OSCON Eric Raymond announced that the Open Source Initiative and ZDNet were launching the Open Source Awards, intended to “to reward and encourage excellence in open-source software.” The Gold (“Grand Master”) and Bronze (“Merit”) awards are for those who write code. ilver (“Special”) Awards ” . . .offer a way to experiment, and will be expected to occasionally lead to the development of new “regular” categories to go with the Merit and Grand Master awards.”

This year Eric announced the first winners of the Grand Master and Special Awards. Larry Wall was the winner of the Grand Master award — who could argue with that? To my surprise, I was the winner of the “experimental” Silver Award. So surprised that when people began to congratulate me “on the award” I could only think that Firefox or Thunderbird had won another award and I had somehow missed it. When he gave me the award Eric told me it is for authoring the Mozilla Public License and subsequent leadership of the Mozilla project. Only the latter appears on the OSI website. But it’s impossible to talk about leadership in the Mozilla project without talking about Brendan Eich, and so the combination Eric described has to be the correct rationale.

The chance of me becoming a primo hacker is just about nil. Well, maybe less than that. The Mozilla Public License shows up in the Mozilla code, but nothing else I write ever will. It’s definitely rewarding to learn that my eclectic, code-free contributions are seen as valuable by people other than staff. It’s also another data point that suggests that the elusive “community management” concepts I mentioned in my last post are becoming generally recognized as an important element of the open source world. Maybe this experimental award will become a regular part of recognizing contributors to the open source community.

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