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The Most Influential People In Open Source 189

Posted by Soulskill
from the surprising-lack-of-beards dept.
mmaney writes "As part of its 2009 open source best practices research, MindTouch asked C and VP level open source executives who they thought are the most influential people in the industry today. The list is ranked by the effect these individuals have had on the open source industry. Over 50 votes from executives in Europe and North America were cast. There were a few surprises from outside of the open source industry. Steve Ballmer got a mention because of his negative remarks on the open source industry and its subsequent positive impact. Vivek Kundra was mentioned because of his contributions to the industry inside the US Federal Government. Notably absent, however, are any influential women." Relatedly, Matt Asay (who is also on the list) writes about the decreased need for open-source evangelism, noting that several people on the list are there "not because they're open-source cheerleaders, but because they have helped vendors and customers alike understand how to get the most from open-source investments."
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The Most Influential People In Open Source

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  • Bill Gates? (Score:2, Funny)

    by vawarayer (1035638)

    Someone who makes us want to look for alternatives?

    • If you read even half the summary, you would see Balmer on the list. Believe me, I had the same thought on reading the title of the article, but Steve's inclusion certainly covers it.

      • by ozmanjusri (601766) <[aussie_bob] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Sunday November 01, 2009 @12:16PM (#29942161) Journal
        Believe me, I had the same thought on reading the title of the article, but Steve's inclusion certainly covers it.

        He was also heavily involved in the creation of the "Most Influential" document.

        It's really just a leaked copy of Microsoft Enforcement squad's hit list.

      • Re:Bill Gates? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by richlv (778496) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @12:55PM (#29942346)

        just a couple of days ago i heard somewhat known person in opensource community (and as it turns out, an extremely nice guy) comment on such a list - most likely the same one.
        he said something along the lines on "they just asked some guys with financial interest in all this, but who actually do not care or have any idea what open source or free software actually means, name somebody - so they just named each other".

        looking at the list, i find very few arguments against that.

    • This is fluff of the type I used to see in WIRED, PCWorld, etc years ago. It is corporate back-patting garbage, of little interest to nerds and real programmers and engineers, many of us still unemployed because the Republicans destroyed America's economy. This is made-up tripe... kings and commissars anointing themselves with badges and awards for pretending to care about those of us below them. The emperor has no clothes. The idea of real and tangible freedom still shines brighter and truer than these cor
  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Sunday November 01, 2009 @10:52AM (#29941597) Journal

    How can these people be "influential" when nobody's ever heard of them?

    -jcr

    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by epiphani (254981) <epiphani&dal,net> on Sunday November 01, 2009 @10:54AM (#29941617)

      I think they were shooting for influential in business, in relation to open source. Still, I think they missed their mark considerably.

      There are plenty of people we would all recognize that should be on a list of influential on open source.

      • by Vexorian (959249)
        It's funny that in occasion of this clueless survey, Matt Asay has taken yet another chance to show that he has been ... peeing outside the recipient lately... His new blog piece is sort of the way to crown his recent series of bitter non-sense... I can't resist the need to link to Open Source is dead, long live Casino Open Source? [standardsandfreedom.net]...
    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Radtoo (1646729) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @11:17AM (#29941785)
      It is really the list of "the top influential Executives of the 2009", as is stated further down in the article.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Roebot (1336703)
      You have never heard of VA Linux, Sourceforge, SugarCRM, Redhat, Alfresco, Drupal? Really?
    • by openfrog (897716) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @02:23PM (#29942862)

      WTF indeed. Let the Slashdot community make a better list. Beginning with some suggestions from TFA (I admit I actually, you know, read it...) comments

      Richard Stallman
      Linus Torvalds
      Eric S. Raymond
      Bruce Perens
      Tim O’Reilly

        Also
      Bob Young & Marc Ewing (Red Hat founders) and
      Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google founders)

  • by Night Goat (18437) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @10:53AM (#29941603) Homepage Journal

    Although the article was very thin on details, I thought that it was worthwhile. It put a new spin on things because the list dealt with who was currently influential, rather than trotting out the old names that we've seen on lists like this for the last fifteen years. I realized after reading the article that I just don't care that much, though. Good thing they chose corporate types to put together this list, since they'll get a charge out of reading it.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Sunday November 01, 2009 @10:54AM (#29941615) Journal

    So, no votes from anyone who's actually, you know, writing any open source code?

    -jcr

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lawpoop (604919)
      Well, realistically, how much code can someone actually write? I think the most influential people are going to be those those who can corral and co-ordinate the efforts of disparate people to work together one one big project that no single person can handle alone. They maybe never even write code themselves.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Relatedly, Matt Asay (who is also on the list) writes about the decreased need for open-source evangelism

    If anything, raving fanbois screaming that Microsoft is "teh suck" is doing more to hurt open source than help.

    I'm a vegetarian. I don't preach to people about it. I don't need other people to follow my path to make me feel good about what I do but I always welcome those who are interested. I find that screaming at people for eating meat is annoying and counter productive. Instead I'd ha

  • Execs, etc (Score:4, Informative)

    by Roebot (1336703) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @11:01AM (#29941677)
    I want to note there are a few who actually contribute code listed. BUT it's important to understand that this top influencers list was actually a byproduct of a survey conducted establishing best practices in open source sales and marketing. Hence the distinctly business slant. This list of top influences has been so remarkably well received that we intend to do it every year. However, in the future survey we will include CTOs and VP of Engs in order to create two categories. Business/Law and engineering. Thanks for the feedback. Please post additional suggestions to the post and we'll try out best to incorporate them.
    • by Vellmont (569020)

      Wow. You've completely missed the whole culture of open source. Your whole article assumes a completely different context. Top influencer's of what? Top influencer's of who? Business guys? Maybe.

      What you seemed to have missed is that "Open Source" generally consists of the people doing the actual work writing the code, designing the infra-structure, etc. It isn't like a traditional business where the Big Business Boys are in charge and call all the shots. That's not to say it's completely grass root

    • So this is a list that gives credit only to business people for the success of Open Source ...

      You are missing: Linus Torvalds (Linux creator), Eric S. Raymond (Open Source advocate), Bruce Perens (started Debian Linux and coined the term “Open Source”), Richard Stallman (Free Software Foundation spiritual father),

      If you were aiming to credit people with substantial influence in the business part of IT, then why did you omit:
      Bob Young & Marc Ewing (Red Hat founders) and Larry Page & Serge

      • Re:Execs, etc (Score:4, Insightful)

        by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@@@gmail...com> on Sunday November 01, 2009 @02:17PM (#29942816) Homepage
        Linus Torvalds (Linux creator)

        True, and his kernel development supervision keeps him on the list even today.

        Eric S. Raymond (Open Source advocate)

        Influential in his own mind maybe. Serious proponents of OSS gave up listening to that fruitcake years ago, I'd estimate at some point after the racism, but before the terrorist paranoia.

        Bruce Perens (started Debian Linux and coined the term "Open Source"

        Debian was started by Ian Murdock (hence the -ian part; the deb comes from his wife's name). And "open source" was coined long before OSI took credit for it. [google.com]

        You could probably make a better argument that Perens deserves to be on the list through his lobbying, especially on the international stage.

        Richard Stallman (Free Software Foundation spiritual father)

        Well more important than its spiritual father, he's its president, so I think that gets him on the list.
    • by mevets (322601)

      Reread roebots post - your missing the sarcasm, he should be modded Funny, right down to a "suggestion box". I'm surprised he didn't add a working group.

  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @11:09AM (#29941721)

    I'd say he's still fairly influential in the open source community.

  • Slashdotted (Score:4, Funny)

    by eln (21727) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @11:10AM (#29941729) Homepage
    I'm very impressed with this list. It's about time the venerable Mr. Error Establishing a Database Connection got his due.
  • I'd like to think that the end users are the most influential people in open source projects.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Most end users do not even bother filing bug reports or feature requests, let alone writing any code or discussing issues on mailing lists.
  • Influential Women (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Iwanowitch (993961) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @11:14AM (#29941763)

    Here is one: Leslie Hawthorn. She organizes Google's Summer Of Code, which has brought thousands of students (myself included) in an active role of participating in various open source projects. It's an absurdly hard task to coordinate thousands of students and mentors each year, to make sure all information, payments, shirts, ... are sent out in time, to organize the mentor summit, and meanwhile try to solve all problems that come up underway. She does it extremely well and I think the open source community can't thank her enough. I honestly don't think there's much more you could do to influence open source.

    Go Leslie!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by inode_buddha (576844)
      I would also nominate PJ at Groklaw, for applying FOSS principles and practices to IP law.
      • by petrus4 (213815)

        I would also nominate PJ at Groklaw, for applying FOSS principles and practices to IP law.

        Yes, Pamela is to be congratulated. Groklaw's single main purpose is allowing the translation of a neurotypical legal system, for a largely autistic audience.

        That isn't meant as a troll, either, so please don't interpret it as one. Even the neurotypicals themselves generally find their legal system virtually impossible to comprehend, so I often wonder how on Earth we are supposed to cope with it.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @12:15PM (#29942147)
      Hate to break it to you, but organizing thousands of developers is nothing new in open source. Look at the big Linux distros, and how their leaders keep everyone in line and organized. You think GSoC is difficult to organize? Try managing Debian or Fedora, where you have to deal not only with your own people and finances, but also with upstream maintainers and the weird decisions they make. GSoC involves keeping all the different, largely unrelated projects in line; a Linux distro supervisor needs to make sure that all the packages in the distro will play nicely with each other. Distro maintainers also have to deal with users, who sometimes make absurd demands and are insulted when they do not get what they want (e.g. the people who demand that Fedora ship with SELinux disabled by default).

      Not to make Leslie Hawthorn's task seem easy, but I would hardly call her the most influential open source leader out there.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Please note that the subject title for the comment was "Influential Women" as in here is a woman that could(should) be on this list. The Mindtouch blog even noted itself that

        Notably absent however are any influential women.

        No the GP wasn't saying that Leslie is "the most influential open source leader out there" instead they were offering her as an example of an influential woman in the open source movement.

        Or to put is simply - you failed at reading comprehension.

      • by vlm (69642)

        You mention Debian, then mention the job title "supervisor"...

        a Linux distro supervisor needs to make sure that all the packages in the distro will play nicely with each other

        Can you describe your experience with Debian's supervisors and management team?

        (Disclaimer, I have some personal experience with this exact topic. It is handled in an effective mostly-anarchistic way, without any "management overhead", which I doubt the fine article's writers and readers can comprehend.)

      • by Vexorian (959249) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @11:26PM (#29946936)
        Well, she's still been more influential than just about half of this list anyway...
    • Why do you want to recognise women separately? Are there any influential redheads, or any influential people with funny middle names?

  • by Rotten (8785) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @11:51AM (#29942007) Journal

    I think that "Open Source" means something different to me..maybe I'm getting older... Does the whole idea of "Open Source" has been kidnaped by the corporate *bs* and rebranded with a new background, meaning and of course, new corporate "heroes"?

    • by jc42 (318812)

      Does the whole idea of "Open Source" has been kidnaped by the corporate *bs* and rebranded with a new background, meaning and of course, new corporate "heroes"?

      Nah; it just means that the people who did this survey didn't bother talking to anyone who really knows what Open Source is or who might be influencing a lot of others right now. They talked to a bunch of top corporate management guys, who mostly have no knowledge of or interest in where their lowly workers are getting their ideas or tools. That's

  • by lucm (889690) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @12:00PM (#29942055)

    ...Darl McBride? I think he is someone who had an effect on the open source industry.

  • by petrus4 (213815) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @12:16PM (#29942163) Homepage Journal

    I either haven't heard of these people, or I don't care about them. Also, nearly everyone listed is either a CEO or board member of a corporation.

    First, the hall of fame:-

    • Eric Raymond. The Art of UNIX Programming [catb.org] has a permanently open tab in Firefox for me.

      "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."
      -- Deuteronomy, 6:6

    • Jordan Hubbard. He was the initial author of the ports system for FreeBSD. He was also, I believe, the leader of that project before going to work for Apple.
    • Marshall Kirk McKusick. Author of both the first and second filesystems for FreeBSD, and designer of the Beastie mascot.
    • Patrick Volkerding. He is the leader of the Slackware Linux project, which was the first Linux distribution I ever used, and still, I believe, the finest in existence.
    • William and Lynn Jolitz. The co-authors of the 386BSD project, and in that sense, Computer Science's answer to the Curies.
    • Bill Joy. Author of the original vi.
    • Bram Moolenaar. Founder and maintainer of the Vim project.
    • Gerard Beekmans. Founder of the Linux From Scratch project.
    • Linus Torvalds. I don't need to mention who Linus is. However, I'm also not mentioning him purely because it is politically correct to do so. I mention him here because I've looked through the code of his 0.1 Linux release. Linux might be a bloated horror now, but back then, it was poetry.
    • Bob Young, and Marc Ewing. The founders of Red Hat. Red Hat eventually abandoned the end user market for the enterprise sector, but they made a game try at creating an end user distribution first. Red Hat contributed a number of key programs to early Linux distributions, including the RPM package manager, and Anaconda hardware detection software. They also now largely fund the continued development of the GNU project.
    • Ulrich Drepper. I will admit that I think Glibc is a bloated mess, but Ulrich displayed courage in once drawing attention to the megalomania of Richard Stallman. For that, I admire him.
    • Daniel Robbins. Founder of both the Gentoo and Funtoo projects, and an awesome bash scripter.
    • Theo de Raadt. Leader of the OpenBSD project. Theo is an individual who understands what both the correct philosophy and methods are, behind developing software, and is not afraid to continue to follow said beliefs, irrespective of the project's detractors. His manner might, at times, emulate that of Erin Brockovich, but I still admire him despite that, and believe that his intelligence is matched only by his tenacity.

    And now, the hall of shame:-

    • Richard Stallman. This is an individual who scarcely needs introduction on Slashdot, either; however I consider him the Magneto to Raymond's Xavier. The Free Software Foundation is the archetypical destructive cult, and Stallman has become as much a bane to Free and Open Source Software as he ever may have originally been a blessing. The savagery that I will likely be shown by his followers, for placing him here, will only further prove that point.
    • Bradley Kuhn. He has stated that his ideal is a scenario where the GPL is the only FOSS license in existence.
    • Ian Murdock. Founder of the Debian project, which is, after Stallman and his drone army, the single greatest source of emotional pain for me, where FOSS is concerned. His original intentions might have been good, but I continue to consider Debian a titanically bloated, excessively complex obscenity, in both technical and social terms. It is the worst Linux distributio
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      I find it very hard to disagree with your list. I am not completely sure that I'd put Ian Murdock on the second list - most of the things you dislike about Debian seem to have collected later and he's done some good work on OpenSolaris that makes up for Debian. Marshall Kirk McKusick and Bill Joy both deserve to be near the top of the list for their respective achievements.

      One person I'd add is Keith Packard. He doesn't get much press coverage, but he is largely responsible for the fact that X.org is

    • by Vexorian (959249)
      I guess that you were modded insightful because you need to click "Read the rest of this comment" in order to read the incredibly nonsensical part of your post... Anyway, do notice that although "RMS is a zealot and an extremest that is a savage and a bane to Free and open source software" he and his likes have certainly not ever come close to show the sort of zealotry and biggotry in your post. I wonder if you are even conscious of the extremism you are showing by calling people "drones" or flaming debian
      • by Vexorian (959249)
        I mean for god's sake, you included a person in that list nto because of his valuable contribution that is glibc but because he attacked RMS. How non-ideologist of you.
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @12:26PM (#29942227)

    Take a quick look at the people in the article:

    http://www.mindtouch.com/blog/2009/10/27/most-influential-people-in-open-source/ [mindtouch.com]

    Now take a quick look at the people on their board (scroll to bottom).

    http://www.mindtouch.com/About_MindTouch [mindtouch.com]
    Notice any two names and pictures in common, like say the top two ranked people in the article?

    Now, I guess you could think "Wow! these guys must really be a great company since they have the TOP TWO OSS influencers on their board!". A less naive person might have some other thoughts on that.

    This article is little more than marketing masquerading as news. It was written by the companies sales guy. The reason why nobody has ever heard of these people is that the article isn't about actual people of influence, it's an attempt to sell a product.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @12:54PM (#29942332) Journal

    ..and the point of open source is a number of people offering their source code to everyone. These people are the source of "open source", and the names on that list don't resonate with that crowd, hence they are not influential. The list should include notable (and leading) contributors to such project as Firefox, Linux, Net/Open/FreeBSD, OpenOffice, SAMBA, Wine, OpenSolaris, etc. (I am sure I missed a lot of important OS projects, please do forgive me in advance).

    It's just another case of epitomizing the managers over the engineers - yes, it's a cliche, but it fits. Managers just can't seem to be satisfied with raking in the most dough - they need the kick of fame, too, even though in the OS world they are the least relevant - remember, cathedral vs. bazaar.

  • Let us just have reality take over. How many women do you know that will "work" after work? None of my colleagues are willing or even think about work after 5. None of men, that stop work at 5 are ever promoted. The reason that women are out of the list, is because they "have better things to do in their lives". Like watching the next episode of some soap opera or do gardening. I am however sorry for those women that have to work double(and sacrifice double) to overcome the fact, that most of their "sisters
  • Mitchell Baker? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Trip6 (1184883)

    Firefox has had over a billion downloads - that's not influential??

One good reason why computers can do more work than people is that they never have to stop and answer the phone.

Working...