What is Open Communication?

Open source collaboration requires open communication, they say. Just what is open communication, exactly? Drawing on past research [1], here are the four principles that make communication open. Open communication is communication that is

  • Public: All communication takes place in the public eye, and none or very little behind closed doors; private side-discussions are discouraged.
  • Complete: All communication is complete to the extent possible. Assumptions are made explicit and conclusions of discussions are summarized.
  • Written: All communication is in written form, allowing folks to participate at their own pace; any non-written communication will be transcribed.
  • Archived: All communication is archived for search and later retrieval. This documents communication for those not around (or awake).

The benefits for open communication as practiced like above are plentiful. It allows asynchronous communication and is inclusive of non-native speakers. It disciplines communication, holds people to what they said, and leads to self-documenting projects.

Open communication isn’t necessarily effective communication. For communication to be effective, you’ll have to consider practices that make it effective, like Assume good faith, Speak to the issue, not the person, and Criticize specifically, praise plentifully. But that’s an even larger topic left to other blog posts.


[1] Riehle, D. (2015). The Five Stages of Open Source Volunteering. In Cloud-based Software Crowdsourcing, pp. 25-38. Springer-Verlag. Republished from The Five Stages of Open Source Volunteering. Technical Report, CS-2014-01. Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Dept. of Computer Science, Erlangen, Germany.

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