Corporate Open Source Fail

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 23, 2016 from 2:30 – 3:15pm in B302/303


What makes companies with good intentions fail so miserably at open source? How can we (as engineers and managers) influence our bosses to "do the right thing"?


“We’ll just make a new open source community.”
“You can fix up that code later.”
“It’s taking too long to get this upstream.”

Many companies have good intentions of being productive open source citizens. However, those good intentions often get thrown under the bus when product deadlines or legal issues loom. This talk will walk through a series of common corporate open source pitfalls and the executive and manager thinking behind those decisions. We’ll discuss ways engineers and managers can develop empathy for their corporate overlord’s needs, in order to convince them to change their strategies around open source.

There will be Dilbert references.

Speaking experience

2007: OSCON "usbfs2: A new USB userspace to kernel interface"
2008: Ignite Portland "Open Source Rockets"
2009: Open Source Bridge "Advanced Git Tutorial"
2010: Linux Conf Australia "Superspeed Me: USB 3.0 for Linux"
2010: Rencontres Mondiales du Logiciel Libre "Intro to USB 3.0"
2011: Linux Conf Australia "Growing Food with Open Source"
2013: Keynote panel at LinuxCon North America "Linux Kernel Developer Roundtable"
2014: Linux Conf Australia "Vampire Mice: How USB power management impacts you"
2014: Moderator for panel at LinuxCon North America "Linux Kernel Internship Report Out"
2014: Presented to students at University of Waterloo “Breaking into Open Source and Linux: A USB 3.0 Success Story”
2016: Keynote at SCALE "Improving Diversity with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs"


  • Me beach cropped

    Sarah Sharp

    Otter Tech LLC


    Sarah is the founder of Otter Tech, a consulting company offering open source training, software development, and diversity consulting.
    Sarah Sharp is a Linux and open source developer, and has been running Debian-based Linux systems since 2003. She was a Linux kernel developer from 2006 to 2013, and is the original author of the Linux USB 3.0 xHCI host controller driver.
    Sarah is also a co-coordinator for Outreachy, a paid internship program for increasing diversity in open source programs. Applications are open to women (cis and trans), trans men, and genderqueer people, and United States residents of any gender who are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latin@, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.


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