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Building open-source communities — or: why do we need softskills?

March 15, 2024

There is that stereotype of a programmer being a “lone wolf”, a genius who works from their basement and single-handedly crafts a new Microsoft or Facebook. Articles on “how to start your career in IT” also tend to only focus on technical skills — “how to write code”, if you will. And yet it’s difficult to overestimate the power of GNU tools, GNU/Linux system or services such as StackOverflow, GitHub or Reddit. The vast majority of software isn’t created by any single person, not even a single team, but whole complex communities of people — with all the consequences.

Why are certain programming languages, libraries or tool completely niche, despite an amazing concept and performance, while others succeed despite obvious flaws? Why is it so difficult to create a good technology stack, despite so many great options being available? And what was even the matter with Linus Torvalds?

I will answer all of the above and more, based on my experiences from communities I saw — and took a part in — raising.