What is Open Collaboration?

Open collaboration was popularized by open source projects, and since has made its way into wikis and Wikipedia, the mix and remix culture and open content, open educational resources, and so forth. Just what exactly is it?

Open source itself does not easily help with a definition: No two open source projects are the same (though there are repeating patterns of best practices). So we have to resort to fundamental principles that unify the underlying approach.

For the OpenSym conference series (formerly WikiSym), the steering committee back in 2012 agreed to use an old definition of ours [1]. Open collaboration is collaboration that is

  • Egalitarian: Everyone can participate in the collaboration, there are no artificial barriers to entry
  • Meritocratic: Decisions are made based on the merits of the argument not based on a person’s status
  • Self-organizing: Collaborators choose their process themselves rather than accept an imposed one

That’s it! Sweet and simple. Of course it helps to practice open communication to make open collaboration happen.


[1] Riehle, D., Ellenberger, J., Menahem, T., Mikhailovski, B, Natchetoi, Y., Naveh, B., & Odenwald, T. (2009, March/April). Open Collaboration within Corporations Using Software Forges. IEEE Software vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 52-58.

Leave a Reply