Users are Powerful with FOSS by Belonging to Hackerpreneur Clubs

This post is one of the 152 I published between 2011 and Feb 2015

Updated Oct 4, 2011

This article included in my 2011Dec01 podcast

Free Open Source Software.


FOSS means:

  • if it’s broke, then you have to fix it;
  • if it’s ugly, then you have to prettify it;
  • if it lacks features you need, then you have to feature-ize it;
  • if the documentation sucks, then you struggle that much more to learn it.

People who create FOSS can do whatever the heck they want with it:

  • random release dates;
  • delays to accomodate programmers satisfying technical fetishes;
  • features that are half-assed tested;
  • stupid looking forms that someone whipped off while half drunk;
  • impossibly busy administration areas;
  • idiotic work-flows;
  • non-existent migration paths;
  • hard-coded shit that renders a feature useless.

You can cry-and-whine, and rant-and-rave, but the reality of FOSS is that you-who-use-it are completely on the hook for it lock-stock-and-barrel, not the people who created it.

The second you open your mouth to complain, you are expected to Do Something About It. No documentation? Well, document it and post it for everyone else. Something is broke? So push your patch to Github. You are hot for a new feature? Program it, or cough up the money to hire someone to create it, and make that code available on Github too.

You who use FOSS are expected to contribute to it.

The hard brutal reality of FOSS is:

  • users are on your own;
  • creators can do whatever the heck they want;
  • users who complain are considered leeches;
  • users shoulder all the risk.


Tienda’s creator says in his blog:

People who are good matches for FOSS…are comfortable working in & with their chosen FOSS’ technologies

He reminds us that:

The code is open!

You can do what you want with it!

If you don’t like the way something looks or functions in the FOSS you just downloaded, you can change it!

This is a beautiful thing.

You can *change* the software to make it do what you want!

If this is lost on you, then you have missed a major point of FOSS.

The upside of shouldering this extreme risk is enjoying extreme control: “You can *change* the software to make it do what you want!”.

You, my dear user, have enormous power at your fingertips. You are powerful!

Everyone, including users, have these rights:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0);
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1);
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2);
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others(freedom 3).

You, yes you, have rights that make you powerful with your FOSS!

But you have to ask yourself one question: can you code?

No programming skills means you cannot control the code. You are just a passive receiver of the code, completely helpless.

Every little tidbit of programming knowledge brings control into your hands. Even your ability to read and study the code is a priceless skill, putting much more power into your hands than you realize.

Rastin Mehr wrote a terrific blog post that talked about how to capture the power genie in the bottle.
Scroll down to the fifth myth:

We have learned that people who benefit most from services are:

  • Hackerpreneurs (Hacker + Entrepreneurs) who have experience and knowledge in both technology and business development. These are the deadliest warriors in the technology world. You [sic] future competitor is very likely a hackerpreneur.
  • Future Hackerpreneurs: People who don’t have all the technical skills, but have the ambition and commitment to use as a social learning environment to improve and nurture their technical and community management knowledge while we give them the basic building blocks for launching their projects.
  • Any combination of the last 2 who have software development resources. i.e Companies, Startups, and Integrated Project Teams who are either founded by Hackerpreneurs or have hired hackers in their group.

Yeah, you can be a plain ol’ user, and still have power over your FOSS, because you belong to a hackerpreneur group. A group with combined technical expertise and problem solving abilities.

I’m not talking about finding a FOSS project with a strong “community”. I’m talking about something different, something deeper, something that gives you power, gives you control. I’m talking about a belonging to a group who use the same FOSS as seriously as you do, who are seriously screwed as much as you are if it messes up, who are hungry for the same absent features as you.

“Hackerpreneurs… have experience and knowledge in both technology and business development. These are the deadliest warriors in the technology world. Your future competitor is very likely a hackerpreneur”.

This is the powerful group I am building with my Club Commerce.


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