Everyone Working With Open Source and Communities Should Make Time To Read These 10 Classics

Looking for a good book about how you can work with communities? Here are some great books you should have on your shelf from people who’ve been involved in the creation and management of really powerful communities, which is something I deeply respect.

Many of these books are available freely. I do have one request before you jump in:

Even if most of these books are available for free in pdf, if you download it and you think it looks even remotely interesting, buy it.

You’ll get it in a more convenient format, you’ll support the generous work of the writer, and if you pick up just one idea from the book, it makes it even more than worth the price. That idea could be the one that changes your life or simply challenges long-held beliefs you’ve always had. And those moments are invaluable to your development. And you’ll be supporting the generous work of many of these writers.

So without further ado, here are the recommendations… And each has either a (non-affiliate) link for easy buying, a link to a free download, or both.

The Art of Community, by Jono Bacon

This is a no-nonsense guide by Jono Bacon, the former community manager of Ubuntu, among of the largest open source communities out there. He offers a collection of experiences and observations from his decade-long involvement in building and managing communities. You’ll discover how a vibrant community can provide you with a reliable support network, a valuable source of new ideas, and a powerful marketing force.

He covers in detail each step of the community creation. From things like How to develop a community building strategy, to attracting contributors, sharing their successes or providing tools, processes and infrastructure to getting more people involved. And even how to hire a community manager or dealing with conflict in a large community.

An absolute must-read if you are building or planning to build a community around your idea, whether its software, hardware, design or anything else.

Purchase link
Free (as in freedom) Version Link

Open Models, by Louis-David Benyayer

A great book with case studies that span examples of open models in software, education, industry, design, data, science, art and culture. All of these models question the traditional closed organisational models. By getting communities involved, Open Models shows how open organisations can solve problems centralised models can’t. A few examples include OS Vehicle, an open source car sold in kits, Protei, an oil spill cleaning sailing robot, or Open Street Map, the open source alternative to Google Maps.

Purchase Link
Free (as in freedom) Version link

Roads and Bridges, by Nadia Eghbal

Just like physical infrastructure, digital infrastructure needs regular upkeep and maintenance. But financial support for digital infrastructure is much harder to come by.

Finding ways of sustaining our digital infrastructure is probably a new topic for many of you, and the challenges are not well understood. Here Nadia Eghbal sheds some light on the unique challenges faced by digital infrastructure and its maintainers, and also shows a way forward to work together to address these challenges.

Download link

Producing Open Source Software, by Karl Fogel

Successful projects Open Source like Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP have convinced the corporate market to embrace free, “open source” software like never before.

But since the overwhelming majority of free software projects fail (just as the overwhelming majority of closed projects), Karl Fogel wrote this book to guide free software developers on anyone who wants to participate to work together towards a common goal.

He offers practical advice on how to set up and use a range of tools in combination with open mailing lists and archives. He also provides several chapters on the essentials of recruiting and motivating developers, how to gain much-needed publicity for your project, or managing a team of enthusiastic developers — most of whom you’ve never even met.

Purchase Link
Free (as in freedom) Version

The Open Organization, by James Whitehurst

What’s the best way to learn how to lead an Open Organization than from the CEO of Red Hat? Read Hat managed to become the company with the highest revenue among open source businesses. Jim Whitehurst shows the steps he follow to lead a “leaderless” organization in which employees can call bullshit on the CEO. He also gives fantastic guidelines on how to run (or rather facilitate and inspire) a horizontal organization in which he flips most of the common managerial wisdom. He shows how taking slow and inclusive decisions and breaking the chain of command do speed up execution and enhance quality, but also how to leverage it to build community, harness resources and talent both inside and outside the organization, and motivate and empower people at all levels to act with accountability.

This book provides a great blueprint with candid advice for reinventing your organization.

Purchase Link

Milestones: The Story of WordPress

This book charts the story of WordPress, from its humble beginnings as a few lines of code written in an apartment above a bar in Corsica, to the dominant web platform that it is today.

You’ll get an inside look at all the bumps in the road and the delicate dance WordPress had to perform with its community to become the most used CMS in the world, as well as a thriving business supported by its ecosystem of developers and contributors.  

Free (as in Freedom) Version

Unleashing the Ideavirus, by Seth Godin

Seth Godin questions the traditional marketing wisdom, which tries to count, measure, and manipulate the spread of information through expensive advertising. He argues that the information can spread most effectively (and affordably) from customer to customer, rather than from business to customer. This powerful customer-to-customer dialogue is what he calls the ideavirus.

In his books he offers a “recipe” for creating your own ideavirus, identifies the key factors in the successful spread of an ideavirus (powerful sneezers, hives, a clear vector, a smooth, friction-free transmission), and shows how any business, large or small, can use ideavirus marketing to succeed in a world that just doesn’t want to hear anymore inauthentic and manipulative advertising.

Purchase Link 
Free (as in Freedom) Version

The Inevitable, by Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly claims that much of what will happen in the next thirty years in technology is inevitable, driven by technological trends that are already in motion. In this fascinating, provocative new book, Kelly provides an optimistic road map for the future, showing how the coming changes in our lives—from virtual reality in the home to an on-demand economy to artificial intelligence embedded in everything we manufacture—can be understood as the result of a few long-term, accelerating forces.

The most relevant chapter to collaborative communities is about what will happen when everything becomes free thanks to open source and remixing. He’s got a beautiful and hopeful narrative about how even when everything is freely available, there will be other ways to make money. And yes, there is an alternative to robots replacing us.

Purchase Link

Steal like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

In a world of open source and creative commons access to other people’s creations, it’s increasingly important to find new ways of combining and synthesizing this booming innovation.

Austin Kleon gives a positive message with exercises, illustrations and examples to put you directly in touch with your artistic and creative side. Learn how to do good theft that honors, steals from many and remixes other’s creations, not bad theft that degrades, steals from one and rip’s off from others.

Purchase Link
Free (as in Freedom) Version

Tribes, by Seth Godin

If we need to change the world, who is going to lead us?

Blogs and social networking sites help existing tribes get bigger. But more important, they’re enabling countless new tribes to be born—groups of ten or ten thousand or ten million who care about their iPhones, or a political campaign, or a new way to fight global warming. And so the key question.

The Web can do amazing things, but it can’t provide leadership. That still has to come from individuals—people just like you who have passion about something. The explosion in tribes means that anyone who wants to make a difference now has the tools at his or her fingertips. And anyone could be you.

This book will make you think about the opportunities in leading your fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, or readers… It’s not easy, but it’s easier than you think.

Purchase link

Over To You

If you’re looking for a good book, you can’t go wrong with any of the suggestions above.

Remember: If you’re even remotely interested in buying one, go for it. You might learn a lesson you might never have otherwise gotten.

Now I want to turn it to you: What books do YOU recommend? Have you read any of the books above? What did you think? Looking forward to reading your answers.

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Jaime Arredondo
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    1. Author

      Thanks Veron,

      Happy it’s served as a reminder to check these great books 🙂

  1. Thank you for the article! I have been looking for more resources to deep dive more into open source ideas.

    1. Author

      An absolute must ! Thanks for reminding me of this great book Ares 🙂

      Un abrazo!

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