Is Portland, Oregon, really the de facto hub of open source? Montreal, Quebec, and Raleigh, North Carolina, say no

[HTML3]Okay. I may be a little overly fond of calling Portland the “de facto hub of open source.” I mean, we play host to OSCON and Open Source Bridge. We’ve got a very active open source community. Our fair city has opened up its data to let people hack to their hearts’ content. And we’re home to a bevvy of open source types like Steve Holden and, yes, Linus Torvalds. Heck, we even have open source based companies like Puppet Labs that are getting funded. And some of the most influential folks on Github

But are we really the hub of open source? Apparently, not. You see, there are a number of other cities who think they’re no only as open sourcey as we—they think they’re more open sourcey. Most notably, Quebec, Montreal, and Raleigh, North Carolina. In fact, OpenSource.com is currentlyrunning a poll about who will be the “world’s first open source city.”

So it bears discussion. I mean, we know what’s happening in Portland. But what about these other towns? What makes them so open sourcey?

Quebec, Montreal

Montreal has the opportunity to be the best ecosystem in the world for Open Source software startups. We’ve got a good cadre of entrepreneurs here who’ve had experience with building Open Source companies. We have investors who’ve been through the process of investing in and nurturing Open Source companies. And we have the all-important talent pool of people who’ve been part of the process.

More importantly, there’s not another leading Open Source city on the globe. San Francisco and Boston have a few companies, but they’re definitely not hubs. The commercial Open Source landscape is spread much further across the globe – from London to Utah to Germany to Austin.

For more, read Can Montreal Become an Open Source Startup Hub?

Raleigh, North Carolina

I started pondering what qualities would define an open source city a few months ago when my friend Tom Rabon mentioned it to me one day. I was curious how the city I live in, Raleigh, NC, could attract other open source companies and be the world’s hub for open source and a leader in open government. How could Raleigh be the open source capital of the world, similar to what Silicon Valley is to technology and Paris is to romance?

I think the answer can be found in both the government and the people. First, our government has to be willing to embrace the open source way of doing things. They need to be transparent in their handling of business and foster citizen participation. Citizens need to be willing to participate and contribute their time and knowledge. Both need to embrace rapid prototyping to explore new ideas and innovative solutions.

For more, read Raleigh, NC—the world’s first open source city.

Is there even a hub?

Strong showings from Quebec and Raleigh, to be sure. But perhaps one of the best arguments comes from DemandXpression in the Silicon Florist forums.

Money is important for OS development. Corporate contribution to OS is invaluable. Location *is* irrelevant for much OS contribution, but there could be more community-based OS contribution efforts that centered around meet-ups and on-site activities (because it’s fun).

So what is it, Portland? Are we the hub? Is someone else? Is there no hub? Whatever the case, chime in on the on the poll or comment, if you would. It would be interesting to see where it all falls out in terms of this open source city smackdown.

(Hat tip Evan Prodromou)
(Image courtesy Matt McGee. Used under Creative Commons.)

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  4. Raleigh and Quebec aren’t even in the running. You’ll have to do a better job searching blogs with google to find some real contenders.

    Raleigh – they have LED lights (huh?) and city meetings open to the public (required by law).

    Quebec – five open source startups might put them in the top 100, but near the end of the list.

  5. Very interesting post and analysis. Thanks for reading my post on opensource.com and pointing folks to the poll. I’m hoping to make it out to Portland this year for the OpenBridge conference.

    Back to the topic, I think we’ll need some criteria to measure against if we want one of our cities to “get the trophy.” Until then, I think we’re all making valid points to make the claim and the more open source cities we have around the world, the better off all of us will be.


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