We believe in collaborating with others as much as possible. This means many different things, from always focusing on community-based open source software, to building partner networks, to using and contributing to open standards, to connecting with proprietary software. We believe that true collaboration towards a real goal is more important than sticking dogmatically to a set of principles. Our way of approaching the world is to seek to align incentives of various individuals and institutions as much as possible, so all can achieve their own ends while simultaneously working towards something bigger.

This is always a challenge, and indeed we are not seeking collaboration for collaboration’s sake. Working with others can be a lot of fun, but if it’s not building towards something than it’s not worth it. There are countless opportunities to collaborate every day, and it can take up a lot of time. So we seek to always be open to collaboration, but have it start small, and constantly evaluate if that collaboration is building more than each participant could alone.

Collaboration is often contrasted against competition, but we don’t view them at odds with one another. We appreciate the amazing feedback mechanism of ‘the market’, and the competition there ensures what we are doing is worthwhile. But we believe collaborating in order to compete. The line between collaboration and competition is quite fluid, and indeed competition to us is more like a friendly soccer game, less like a battle or war. We’ll compete with all our hearts in the moment, and do everything to win, but go and grab a beer with the opposing team after the match. Or we’ll switch up team members to make it a better game. The goal is to get each individual working at their maximum potential, and competition can be quite useful for that. But the ultimate goal is to build something positive in the world, to cooperate on the macro level. [1] Competition just helps ensure that more resources go to the better collaborations. Competition is incredibly useful, it pushes humans to more. The Space Race is a great example of this type of competition. So we do welcome competition, but always keep in mind the greater collaborative goals. And are always happy to collaborate with anyone who is or will be a competitor, as long as we can find a way for some incentives to align properly.

As the internet enables far more collaboration than has been previously possible we believe that the winners of competition will be those who collaborate the best. Smaller, more agile organizations and even just collections of interested people are already outperforming huge corporations in a variety of ways. We embrace this new networked reality, and hope to contribute to finding innovative structures that enable even more effective cooperation.


[1]A good example of this is the rivalry between GeoServer and MapServer. Both are collaboratively built, but compete in the annual ‘WMS Shoot Out’ at the FOSS4G conference, where we see which is faster. The competition is fierce, both teams want to win, but ultimately everyone is friends. Each project meets all the same open standards, so they naturally cooperate far more than they ‘compete’. Both talk to the same backend and front end software, and contribute to each of those. Both groups will recommend the other when it’s more appropriate for a situation. The awesome result of this competition, however, is that both projects are far faster than any of the rest of the competition. For the past couple years proprietary software has tried to compete in the competition, but dropped out early because they couldn’t devote enough resources to it. Our suspicion is that they were so far behind that it would be bad marketing for them to admit it. (Our favorite in 2010 was QGIS Mapserver, which had an abysmal showing relative to others, but still published their numbers - that’s opening the door for collaboration). In general the competition between GeoServer and MapServer has made both projects far stronger than they’d be if they existed in isolation.
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