Open source is the right path — now more than ever.
Open source projects like Stellar provide for limitless growth and creativity and exceed all other models for building — particularly for building networks. Until nine years ago, I didn’t understand the value of open source, but once converted, it is hard to see working in any other way. And as I reflected on how deeply our ability to connect with one another has changed in the last several weeks — not being unable to meet in person, attend conferences together, or present ideas to the world in the ordinary ways — I was reminded of the power of open source.
It’s written down. Documentation. Documentation. Documentation. The hallmark of a true open source project — and the element that allows the project to grow organically and richly — is documentation. Historical records and writings are artifacts of decisions that were made in the past, and often help to guide the trajectory of the project. At the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF), we recognize time and time again that creating documentation and readily accessible records of our work allows others to build and improve upon Stellar. We have spent the last year focusing on filling in the holes where our own documentation was spotty, and on creating video and written explanations of how things on Stellar work. In an environment ripe with new and fast-moving participants, one-to-one conversations, while pleasant and informative, are not as impactful as the one-to-many communications that strong documentation brings and can often change the landscape for a business or partner. We love it when we hear about projects that were built on Stellar without ever talking to anyone at SDF — documentation wins.
It’s transparent. Transparency allows an open source project to communicate clearly to the community and to hold itself accountable to its mission and direction. At SDF, we spent 2019 working to become more transparent about our work and the work we do for Stellar. We created our new mandate, created and described XLM accounts that are trackable and traceable, and created a roadmap that is clear and direct. In 2020, we continue to be more vocal about our work, and about the work on being done on Stellar. This transparency holds us accountable to both say what we are doing and to do what we are saying. Transparency builds trust.
It’s collaborative. The beauty of open source is that it relies on collaboration from many to achieve success. SDF works in constant collaboration with its vast community so our progress and growth is the fruit of our shared labor. In fact, some important evolutions of the network were ideas first raised by our community, like the removal of inflation. It was vetted and debated on public forums, and as a group, we considered and discussed community-driven proposals for doing away with inflation. This community leadership focused on how to improve the protocol for everyone. And the final decision was put to a vote that speaks to the shared ownership of a public platform like Stellar. That collaborative spirit fosters innovation and creativity, where we encourage ideas that shape the network for the better. Collaboration on a project only makes it better.
It’s diverse. Open source projects work beyond borders and by their nature create diversity of thought, background, and culture. This allows the best minds from all of the world to opine, contribute, and improve the work that is done. With this diversity we learn how payments work in different contexts and in different regions of the world — this helps us to ensure that the solution can truly be global and innovative. It ensures we don’t have the real problem of thinking only about those regions we live in. We can teach each other what’s working in areas around the world and that’s something folks are hungry to learn. Not long ago, SDF hosted a session with Cowrie, Stellar-based business, on how they went live with cross-border payments in and out of Nigeria on Stellar — and registrants from 57 countries tuned in. Diversity brings real value.
Stellar brings together work across time zones and continents, sometimes without any humans even talking to one another. Some entities seek support from the community and SDF while others build on Stellar without even having to reach out to any other community members to do so. How is that? It is because of the transparency, the deep collaboration through code, the documentation, the attention to providing information in a one-to-many format versus a one-to-one format, the diversity of the participants in the project and because of the commitment to community. And in a time when having in person meetings or gatherings presents risk to public health, open source projects, like Stellar, can continue to thrive. Even when, like today, physical borders are essentially closed, open source means virtual borders can always be open.
Building a network that crosses borders, values, and business models requires this type of commitment to openness, transparency, collaboration and diversity. I wouldn’t want us to work in any other way.