Combating Apathy: How to Keep a [Free and Open Source] Community Alive

This June will mark the fourth anniversary of the creation of the Utah Open Source Foundation.  In October, we will be hosting approximately 500 attendees at the fourth annual Utah Open Source Conference.

What started out as a simple idea in my backyard in Springville, Utah has blossomed into something much larger, a community of people who want to participate in the coolest events in the Mountain West.   Many of those events are hosted right here in Utah.

While there are other, larger communities in cities like Boston, New York and Los Angeles, the Mountain West has something that most other communities don’t have, a sense of volunteerism, community and brotherhood.  This even holds true for the most part in the Free and Open Source [FOSS] community.  I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Utah Open Source Foundation and Conference for the past 4 years and look forward to seeing it grow beyond Utah and its humble roots.

There are some really good examples of the FOSS community coming together right here in the Mountain West.  These include Local User Groups like the Salt Lake Linux User Group, Idaho State LUG,, Rexburg Open Source as well as some great community events like AbleConf, PodcampSLC, Geek/Blogger Dinners, hackUTOS, BYU Unix User Group Installfests and many more.

While each of these events are great in their own right, there could be so many more.  But why are there not more amazing, or more complete events?

My real question here is why aren’t there more people helping do more of these events?

If I must use an example from my experience, I find that a lot of people really enjoy attending events and networking with others.  They believe that when they do this, they will have stronger relationships and when (not if) they need to change jobs, those they networked with will likely know of a position available.  While this is generally true, it seems to me that if people actually helped with these events, they’d actually have more contacts and more opportunities when they need to find work fast.

Just think about that premise for a few minutes…

If you spend just 2-3 hours per month, yes I said per month, volunteering your time toward the FOSS community, there will be many more opportunities for you when you need it most.

Read the next segment on ‘Combating Apathy in Communities’.