This is a post that reflects on international character of the community around the `Awesome Window Manager <http://awesome.naquadah.org>`_, though it takes a while to get to that. There's this theory of blog post writing that says you should write like newspaper articles and front load your arguments. Save this editorial note, this post is an epic failure at this formula. Apologies.
It will come as a surprise to no one that I am not only an avid user of open source software but also a keen observer of the open source community. Communities, particularly digital communities, seem to be my thing, and participating and watching various parts of the open source community has reminded me a lot about what I liked most about the Internet back when I started my travels in cyberspace and (slightly) more recently when I started blogging.
I'm yet sure if the argument that "open source is qualitatively different from other sorts of cyberspace communities" holds water. Unlike the communities that form around collees (eg. facebook), special interests (eg. blogs, podcasts, and discussion forums), or around established "real world" connections (eg. email, instant messaging) open source communities form in order to produce something reasonably concrete and specific. But other communites online form around shared goals (eg. many communities on livejournal), and certianly open source hackers weren't the first to use technology to collaborate. And open source communites use all the same internet technologies (IRC, listservs, newsgroups) that we've been using for years, so there's nothing particularly novel about the communities.
But I digress.
While the Internet is techincally world wide, and does allow for information to be exchanged globally, communities on the internet are often pretty localized. Even if a community isn't rooted in real-world connections (and many are, more than we might initally expect) they're often constrained by language and time-zones to a great degree.
The community around the Awesome Window Manager provides a great counter example to this. JD, the original/primary author/leader is in France, and I've interacted with people in the Awesome list and chat room are from all over the world. While I know of a few Awesome users in the United States my impression is that the core of the user base isn't particularly American, though some further research into this might be in order. Interestingly most of the conversations and documentation happens in English.
I don't have a lot of idea about why this is the case exactly. My current working theory is that the kind of advanced user that Awesome attracts, is more likely to use Linux/BSD outside of the US (Apple being less prevelent outside of the US, and interntaionalization and what not driving people to Linux in the non-english speaking world.) But that's just one idea.