Reflections on 2021 can cover an almost infinite number of topics, but I have to say that open source software has gone through some monumental shifts. As I see it, there are three distinct aspects that we should all be recognizing so that we have greater context in 2022.


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Community

Besides the legal ramifications of Open Source, the one thing that truly defines an Open Source project is its community. In 2021, following the changes Covid in 2020, was still very virtual. While this brought great opportunities to expand horizons and relationships, it still is not the way that people feel most satisfied or successful in the community. I can definitely say that online engagement has become much more the norm but we are missing out on the human touch.

Thankfully, in drips and drabs, some events were actually in person, and the ability to strengthen the virtual experiences with a fist bump, handshake, or even (can you believe it) hug were so revitalizing. I’ve been lucky to attend some great events:

Yes, Covid and travel were top of mind but on the whole it seems that all of these events we barely impacted, if it all. I commend the vaccine requirements across the board for making these safe and memorable experiences. With Omicron it seems some folks did test positive but to my knowledge with minimal effects.

There are already some very large scale events in the works for 2022:

even a U.S. WordCamp, WordCamp Birmingham, and the Post Status Partner Summit! I hope that vaccination is required in the short term to get the most comfort for everyone. I can see many dropping out of attending if we play footloose.

Economics

Economics? Money? Whatever you want to call it, 2021 was a banner investment year for companies throughout the open source universe. The WordPress ecosystem was stronger than ever! I honestly don’t see this slowing down, though I do have to eat a lot of words since I am shocked – SHOCKED! – that neither WP Engine nor Automattic entered the public markets. Of the two at this point, I think it will be WP Engine first, Automattic may just have less internal pressure to jump into the markets. I will be keeping eyes and ears open for any changes.

Short term, super short term, let’s just say I do see a minimum of two acquisitions that will be of interest to many folks with another two that maybe shocking or at least an interesting surprise.

Long term, I don’t see a reason for the investment madness to slow down, it’s one way to stay ahead of inflation.

The Public

Last on the list is public awareness of open source. Though it came late in the year, the Log4j vulnerability brought to serious attention the nature of open source. And that nature was startling – those of us in the arena know that a few people make a huge difference in the running of the entire internet. Without honestly and deliberately supporting volunteers, these kinds of mega-surprises will have disastrous and expensive ramifications.

WordPress is one project that is tackling this problem head on with Five for the Future. I think and know that more folks will be getting into this and I hope there is a way to translate this commitment to other projects.

Open Source in 2021 Wrap Up

We’ve got three things to keep watching: Community, Economics, and the Public. It should be a very exciting year for all of open source.

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