I present at a lot of FOSS conferences and therefore have the chance to meet and speak with a lot of FOSS luminaries. These are inspiring people who’ve been working with, for, and on FOSS since the very beginning of the movement and who are still playing absolutely vital roles in FOSS at a leadership level. These are the people we all consult when forming a new foundation, creating a new license, or open sourcing an internal project. Most of the individuals who are working at these conceptual and policy levels of FOSS have been doing it since the beginning and helped to craft the history, the law, the processes, the politics of Free and Open Source software. It will be difficult to replicate that experience and knowledge.
But here’s the thing: We are, each one of us, getting older.
Some day the Tim O’Reillys, the Danese Coopers, the Simon Phippses, the Allison Randals, the Karl Fogels, the Bradley Kuhns, the other luminaries of the FOSS world will want to move on and/or retire. And well they should, as they’ll have more than earned a break for all the service they’ve given FOSS.
As I look around the ranks of FOSS policy leadership, I see all these great people but I see few to no younger leaders. These people have been serving us so well for so long that perhaps we’ve just had no need to supplement them with additional assistance and, in truth, it would be difficult to do so. Which I believe is precisely why we need to start thinking about this now before it’s too late.
So I have to wonder: do we in FOSS have a succession plan for these luminaries upon whom we’ve learned to rely? Are there programs and initiatives for training and mentoring the next generation of FOSS policy leaders? There are plenty of people working to build up the community leaders of tomorrow, but are we devoting enough attention to the policy and legal side of things?
Perhaps we are. I pay a lot of attention to what happens at that level of FOSS but won’t pretend to know everything which is going on. Mostly I just wanted to pose the question to see what thoughts and insights people have about the matter.