A week or so ago, web usability guru Jakob Nielsen reported that "web users are getting more ruthless and selfish."
What on earth could that mean?
It sounds somewhere between totalitarian dictators and nursery school playgrounds, but I couldn’t imagine how it could apply to browsing the web. But it sure sounds important, so of course I clicked the link…
What I find is that "ruthless and selfish" is defined, in the body of the article, as "users want simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task, and leave." Wait, what was that? "Ruthless and selfish" means "getting what they want"? Excuse me while I make an appointment with my chiropractor for this sudden case of whiplash.
Here’s a lesson from the open-source community, to be freely reapplied by inner-sourcers everywhere: communities grow when we help each other succeed; communities die when we’re more interested in what we can get out of our peers than what we can give back. We don’t upsell each other. We don’t squeeze each other for a little bit more. We make it as clear as we can what we have to offer, and what we don’t, so the other community members can choose to take our stuff, look somewhere else, or help us turn what we have into what they need. Just an hour or so before I came upon this "web guru," I was doing exactly that in a small open-source project where I contribute. I took the time to review a "competing product," pointing out why you might actually be better off using that one instead of ours. Over there, I can do that freely: I have nothing to gain if people do or don’t use SCPlugin; I have a small bit to gain if someone likes it enough to contribute in some way, but no one will contribute if it’s not really meeting their needs.
In order to succeed at inner-source, you need to encourage that kind of mutual self-help.