How to demonstrate the culture of participation?

Trying to teach how open source happens in the wild is not something easily done through handouts and diagrams.  Sure, it’s easy to say that open source functions through the small (or large) gifts of time and energy by a community of invested individuals.  But one really needs examples.  Take Reed Loden, for example…

Earlier in the week some of my students came to me asking for help querying bonsai.  I introduced them to reed on IRC and asked him if he would be interested and willing to give them a hand.  He was, and in the space of a few days he set-up a CVS mirror, local instance of bonsai, and other tools for them to use on one of our servers.  This “small gift of time and energy” is already helping a number of other student projects, namely, delta debugging, buildbot extensions, distcc msvc, and the source code indexing analysis work.

Why do people do it?  Why did reed spend that time helping these students push further with their work?  I can’t answer that.  But I can say that this is one of a dozen examples I could give you from the past few weeks.  As a picture of what open source is and how it functions by means of a culture of participation, reed’s gift is worth more than the 1,000 words I could write about the same.  Thank you reed.