Red Hat Extends Open Source Conversation Beyond Technology

Red Hat's new web portal examines open source beyond software origins.

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I know what you're thinking, because I thought the same thing when I read the news on the wire.

Opensource.com? Really?

The opensource.org home pageRight away, it struck me that the need for yet another open source community site has to be nil. This niche on the Internet is quite saturated, with opensource.org, Linux.com, Howtoforge, LinuxQuestions.org easily filling the bill for community resources--among many other sites.

I'll be honest, my initial thought was that this is another attempt by Red Hat to control the message--this time about open source.

So, I'll be equally candid and admit that I was way off the mark.

As it turns out, the new opensource.com site is not trying to control the existing message about open source, but rather a way for Red Hat to get the conversation going about how open source methodologies can be used beyond software. That was the take away as I spent some time today talking to DeLisa Alexander, senior vice president, People and Brand at Red Hat. 

Alexander is more than a little enthusiastic about this project, calling it "one of the most exciting things she's worked on" in her eight years at Red Hat. And there's some room for pride here. Built on the (open source, of course) Drupal content management system, the new site features a wealth of content on open source usage and approaches in channels including Government, Law,  Education, and Business. My personal favorite is the Life channel, because the science geek in me can truly appreciate discussions about open source genetic engineering.

While the content of opensource.com is certainly diverse, and this is one of the better-looking Drupal sites I've seen in a while (not withstanding the one you're reading now), I had to ask Alexander how the site was going to be managed going forward. Because, as rich as this content is, it's still leans towards one-way: articles are offered up, and readers are allowed to comment.  This is two-way communication, but it's the site organizers that currently initiate the message.

Alexander explained that there have been readers who have mentioned this already, and if the community at-large decides more participiatory communication (like forums) is needed, then the site moderators will address this need with solutions. Also, she emphasized, the site is open for contributed content, so it doesn't have to be just the moderators delivering the first part of the dialogue.

As she highlighted the community participation aspect of the new site, I asked Alexander if opensource.com would ever loop back to coverage of open source technology--the arena open source was born. Given its origins, it's conceivable an ongoing community meme would want to include discussions on software and hardware.

Alexander acknowledged that this was something she and her team had considered, and if the community steered the conversation in that direction, they would certainly help guide the site towards technology. She added that it was important that opensource.com remain cognizant of existing open source technlogy sites, and be very respectful of the work they are already doing in the community.

Looking around this new site, I think at the very least it will highlight new positive aspects of open source, and I'm glad--in this case--to be wrong about my initial impressions.

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