Passion brings them together, the internet enables them and their diversity helps them succeed

Lots of corporations work really hard to increase diversity.

In the mean time, I think free and open source software projects have figured it out. They may not be diverse in every way possible (there's a notable lack of women and an over representation of developers – go figure) but they have succeeded in not only attracting a diverse set of people but creating a really well working diverse group of people.

I think a couple of factors have made that possible:

  1. Passion. A shared mission, passion and commitment to the project.
  2. Connectivity. The internet (email, IRC, IM, identica, etc) has enabled people to work together effectively.

Take the GNOME Board of Directors, one of the most effective and diverse teams I've had the pleasure of working with:

  • 7 people
  • that live in 7 different countries
  • on 4 different continents
  • in 6 time zones
  • and speak 5 different first languages

They are diverse in other ways too but these facts are most public.

They talk every day via email, IRC and IM, debate some pretty difficult issues and come to working agreements without a boss. (They hired me, not the other way around.) They run the GNOME Foundation.

How many other teams do you know that are that diverse and that successful?

Their passion for GNOME brings them together, the internet enables them to work together and their diversity helps them succeed.

5 Replies to “Passion brings them together, the internet enables them and their diversity helps them succeed”

  1. Hi Stormy,
    I know you already specifically acknowledged participation by women as being separate from the diversity you’re talking about, but it still feels really odd to see a blog post saying that free software groups have “figured it out” regarding diversity while we’re at <1% participation by women. Seems to me like the only way we could be doing *worse* at diversity, statistically, is if we somehow found a way to discourage white men from taking part. 🙂
    So, I think "Free software groups really kind of suck at diversity" would have been as reasonable a conclusion to draw from the same data, and maybe a more helpful one to make so that we don't get complacent about the status quo, which is really quite awful.

  2. First I thought, too, that communities have high diversity. Later I found out that community members have much more things in common. Sure we come from many different countries but we all share the same passion, the same goals, the same values, the same (organizational / community) culture (e.g. code of conduct). And in most cases you find the same characters. I can’t remember one successful community member who is only talking and do nothing. I meat only very rarely a member who likes to sand in the spotlight or tell others what they have to do.
    But I’m sure that communities live diversity.
    They are highly diverse in accepting other opinions. And I think that’s one (of many) major success factors of open source communities.
    The key to diversity is to accept other opinions, not to be different from others.

  3. That’s a good point and I think many groups that think they have nothing in common would find that they share a lot if they communicated as well as open source communities.

  4. I think we should celebrate the diversity we have. Figure out how we’ve accomplished it and build on it.
    There are lots of different types of diversity and we excel at international and cultural diversity.

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