Eric Bréhault - 'We, Plone'

published Oct 21, 2016

Talk by Eric Bréhault at the Plone Conference 2016 in Boston.

This talk is about psychoanalysis of a community, psychology of developers. What motivates 'us', the Plone community? How do we feel? We do technical stuff, but we are humans, so we have feelings.

Open source, free software: you work for free for people you don't know. That is how your father-in-law would think about it. He thinks you are either stupid or generous.

Jessie J: "It's not about the money, we just want to make the world dance."

We work because we need to eat, and belong, and have a shared ideal, participating in something.

Study: only 16 percent of employees would recommend their company's products. Disaster! Okay, this was in France, we love to be critical, even about things we don't care about.

100 percent of community members would recommend their product.

Two times:

  • Otium: free time, but not just leasure, also time for caring.
  • Negotium: the very opposite of negotium. Time for business.

In English: business and busyness. Being busy. Business is about not caring? That may be exaggerated.

Doesn't it happen to us? A client says something does not work, we don't care. Someone on the other side of the ocean says something does not work in our favorite project: we fix it even in the middle of the night.

Kant talks about minority and majority. Minor: dependent, unfree. Major: autonomous, a scholar among scholars. Developers are grown-ups. But software industry tends to reduce our responsibility. You cannot make developers responsible. Communities value their grown-up status. You do not face clients or a boss, but your co-developers. We discuss with equal people. We feel more committed in this kind of group than in a private company.

Writing software is a full process. You do everything. You are going to iterate over versions. This process induces parenthood. You spend time with the code. You want to fix it, want to feel proud about it, mainly if we show this code to someone. We want to be prepared for the future. In English, software 'runs'. In French it walks, it marches ('il marche'). My kids don't wake me up at night anymore, my 10 year old Plomino software project sometimes does.

Communities are adoption structures. They make sure a piece of software always has loving parents to raise it. It is not just a bunch of developers sharing code. It works like a family, and we welcome new members into the family.

Another concept: how do we build our identity? 'I' needs a 'We'. Gilbert Simondon says: "Becoming myself is a process, which is both individual and collective." Belonging to a group makes me feel more myself. You imitate others.

We want to be Plone. The community is more than the sum of its contributors. The fact that developers want to be a community, makes it a community.

Bernard Stiegler: transindividuation. Plone participates in our 'We' and each of our 'I' processes. We and I influence one another. We change I, and I change We.

Plone-the-thing is just the software itself. Code. Not perfect, lots of bugs. It is real.

Plone-the-concept is a moral ideal. We want it to be perfect, 100 percent tested, fully secure. It is the community's super-ego, in German an Über-Ich. The concept rises above the thing. And the concept influences the thing. The concept stays in the mind of the community, even as individual members may leave or enter.

What keeps Plone going? Love!