As we draw towards the end of another calendar year, here are some reflections on the year that went by and what we should expect in the future.
Yesterday over the foundation call we again had the discussion over contributions, which is quickly becoming a hot-button topic in the community. Which brings me to a more philosophical question. Who are we?
I don’t mean the superficial answer, “We are ERPNext Community” but the deeper set of values/goals we share. Do we share the same values and goals? And what are those? I think it is time to take this question head-on.
A quick disclaimer before you read ahead, and something we need to get out of the way up front, that ERPNext is primarily for the end-user. I did not want to state the obvious but this gets confusing as we go along. Our collective goal (we all agree) is that ERPNext should be usable out-of-the-box by millions of end users, without any hassles. So this post is not for the end users, but for those who have the ability to make this goal happen, that is, developers and service providers, who are also “interested” parties, because they expect to build businesses serving users who will use ERPNext. (If you are just an end user who is customizing for your own self, and never plan to make a business from ERPNext, then you are also not an interested party.)
Based on all the conversations, there are clearly two broad types of interested parties here. One, let us say Type 1, who just care about their business and livelihood. For them, the greater goal is not really important (maybe just mildly entertaining). ERPNext is just another tool, like many others to help them help their customers. Then there are those (Type 2) who along with helping their customers, believe in the greater goal of making ERPNext a valuable community resource that can be used as-is by hundreds of thousands of companies.
So clearly Type 2 is the one that is driven to improve the product and givers of the value, the rest of the community enjoys. I think Frappe Technologies and ERPNext Foundation are two such entities along with those who spend time answering questions on the forum and send contributions. Now let's talk about Type 1 at the moment. These are primarily “takers” they take value from the community and don’t really care about giving back.
My basic question is should Type 1 be a part of this community? For the Type 1 community, there are many such products they can choose (like the one with many “O”s next door), so they have no special affinity for our common goal.
The reason they are problematic is that they destroy culture for everyone else. If they are very visible, then the new members think that “ok, it seems everyone here is for themselves, let me also do the same” and the culture spreads. This is that is currently happening in the community. Very few people are coming forward and doing contributions that are changing this, and we need to deal with this NOW rather than later.
So how do we identify the Type 1 and how do we make sure either they convert to Type 2 or stay away from this community? I think we need to take this call as a community. This means those who are on the fence, need to wake up immediately and start taking on leadership roles that will help us achieve our goals. Not only sending contributions but also actively participating in reviews of new features, testing and bug reporting.
Either we can become, yet-another-ERP in the market or we use this opportunity to do something truly impactful. I can say for myself that I am only interested in the broader goal. I would love everyone to think about their goals in 2018. The current talent we have in the community is enough to take us there, we just need to be clear about it. This is not about a gladiatorial battle against the First Order, but something that has been done before in many domains, and will be done in ERP too, if not by us. The question before us is, will we do it?
One last point is that we value your knowledge more than your money. So if you are a paying foundation member, that is awesome, but that is not enough. Your time and knowledge are of a far greater value in this community, so think about this and come forward.
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.