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Keynote: Start With Freedom

Jul - 25 - 2013
Nicole C. Engard

The next talk by Tom Preston-Werner at GitHub was titled ‘Start With Freedom.’ Tom wanted to talk to us about decision making – a better way to make decisions by starting with your principles and then building off of them. Today we do things the way we think it should be done because others are doing it that way – instead we should start with ourselves and our principles. Next up we get an example from Game of Thrones (which I don’t follow cause I’m not a fan … go ahead start yelling at me).

open allocationFor Tom his first principle is ‘Freedom’. If we start with freedom what decisions can we make? One thing GitHub has done is add a license chooser to the site so that you can choose the right freedoms associated with your code. One option is to put your code in the public domain if you believe in freedom, but there are problems with this – including issues across other countries. Next, Tom introduced me to the WTFPL (how had I not heard of this?) – which actually turns out to be too broad and in the end limits freedoms. So the next option Tom gave us was the MIT License which is so short it fits on one slide and is readable (aka not tini tiny font). This license uses legal terminology to grant all of the freedoms you could want as long as you include the copyright notice. It also has a warranty on it that prevents you from falling to the “Stark Principle” (that Game of Thrones reference). Tom feels that this license is the best one if your fist principle is ‘Freedom’. Why not the GPL? Well it’s too complicated to be focused on freedom (according to Tom).

Happiness and FreedomAnother decision you have to make is starting a company. If you use Freedom as your first principle in starting a company you want to start with minimalism. First off GitHub has removed “traditional” management because that’s about subjugation and control … not freedom. Instead have a highly networked group of people. Teams with team leaders that make decisions – remove barriers to freedom. People end up aligning themselves with projects that are important to them. When things are done this way the projects compete for for developers because no one is telling you you have to work on something. So you can work on whatever is most interesting to you as long as it’s important to the company – in the end everyone is happy.

If you start with freedom then you can finish with happiness! Watch the full presentation on YouTube.


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