Thoughts from Frankfurt
Reflections on a very successful ERPNext Europe Conference in Frankfurt
ERPNext Needs _____
At such events, the first thing people ask us (ERPNext devs) is that ERPNext needs _____. If ERPNext had that feature, it would be the most awesome thing ever. It could be a specific feature like GL codes, documentation, or that one button that will fix all the problems.
No doubt that these are all great requirements, and there is also doubt that once we fix these, the next set of requirements will show up. That is the nature of the product, because we have seen this for the past 5–6 years. There is never a finish line.
Welcome to the Community
When we pushed ERPNext as open source, that was way back in 2008, it was not something that was really important and we did not really understand what it meant. Sometime in 2013 or 2014, a community started to form around the product and that really changed our thinking.
As the current developers / maintainers of Frappe and ERPNext, we cannot solve everyone’s problems and we also do not want to either. If we wanted to, we would need a lot more resources and people to fix everyone’s problems and we would have to raise finance to do it. That is the path most open source ERP projects have taken before us.
But as we progressed, we learnt from other open source projects. We got inspired from Wikipedia, Khan Academy, Wordpress, Linux, Mozilla and so many others. Raising finance from private capital is not the only way to make software as all these pioneers have shown us. If you believe in community and play by the rules, it can also be a great model for collaborative development.
And we are still learning this, so are all the people who are associated with ERPNext.
These conferences and events also turn out a great way in spreading of the open source way of life. We all live in a society where the meaning of our lives is linked to how much wealth we can accumulate, because at one point, wealth used to be a proxy for how much value we create for others. But now that is changing. Today we are talking of automation and universal incomes, and our lives our going to have to search for new way to measure meaning, other than wealth. The theory says that meaning to life comes when we are helpful to others. So this is why open source is so attractive. It not only is a great way to share solutions to problems (like ERP systems) but also to bring more meaning to everyone’s life.
We are also beginning to see a core community form inside ERPNext. Apart from us, Dominik, Antonious and Jayaprakash have now been part of multiple conferences and they “own” ERPNext as much as any one of the core-devs do. Also there are many more who are contributing in many many other ways and this is creating a virtuous cycle.
By the end of the conference, someone told me. “I hope you don’t offer us Kool Aid now”. Attending these events feels surreal for a lot of people and that is what makes it work. We at Frappe are happy to make whatever is needed to make large scale community involvement and ownership happen and we already see a lot of potential.
With this conference, the community just got deeper. Towards the end, no one asked me about their favourite missing feature. I could see it in their eyes that they were thinking about how they can make it happen themselves and contribute back to the community.
But we must also realize that we are only at the beginning of this journey. We are just a bunch of scrappy upstarts and outcasts. Lot of work is still to be done, lots of discussions are yet to happen, lots of decisions are to be taken, but every day it is getting clearer that the “open source” way of life will show us the way.
Rushabh is a software developer and founder of ERPNext. He usually writes about the startup experience, open source and the technologies he is working on.