If anyone knows the joys and sorrows of managing software development projects, it would be Linus Torvalds, creator of the world’s most popular open-source software program: the Linux operating system. For more than 20 years, Torvalds has been directing thousands of developers to improve the open source OS. He and I sat down to talk about effective techniques in running large-scale distributed programming teams – and the things that don’t work, too.
Torvalds says there are two things that people very commonly get completely wrong, both at an individual developer level and at companies.
“The first thing is thinking that you can throw things out there and ask people to help,” when it comes to open-source software development, he says. “That’s not how it works. You make it public, and then you assume that you’ll have to do all the work, and ask people to come up with suggestions of what you should do, not what they should do. Maybe they’ll start helping eventually, but you should start off with the assumption that you’re going to be the one maintaining it and ready to do all the work.”
Torvalds continues, “If you start off with some ‘kumba-ya feeling’ where you think people from all the world are going to come together to make a better world by working together on your project, you probably won’t be going very far.”
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