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Harvesting Innovation

If you're trying to do innovation based on your open-source project, then you need to do more than just successfully run the project--you need to harvest what we have called triggers. Harvesting from your community doesn't involve any sort of thievery or unethical behavior--it means simply finding out what your community members are doing; what problems they're having; what books, trends, and technologies they are engaged in; what conferences they attend; and how they are using your open-source software.Harvesting Innovation

Your community manager can lead the way by being sociable and getting to know the active members of the community. Your developers can also get to know community members. Without being intrusive, you can easily come to find out what kinds of uses your community members are making of your open-source software. Are there problems that seem beyond the scope of the open-source project itself? Are there related problems that could be addressed with other products or add-ons? Are people using your technology clustering in application areas you didn't anticipate? Are they talking about a new technology or reading a new book? Are they working on some particular other open-source projects? Are they upgrading their hardware in a pattern?

When you hold your community meetings, try to arrange for community members to talk about how they are using the project's technology. Use these opportunities to learn about the people who have come to your technology on their own. And learn about what they are doing with it.

Get your developers together periodically to share what's been learned and brainstorm new opportunities. Have a variety of people in your company look at the community. When you think you have something, it might turn out that some community members your community manager is friendly with are willing to discuss your ideas.

The key is just to keep your eyes open--don't pry and don't do official-looking surveys. Simply be aware of what your community is up to, who is in it, and what they share voluntarily about what they are doing and the problems they're having.

Innovation Happens Elsewhere
Ron Goldman & Richard P. Gabriel
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