What’s the next tool in your toolbelt?

As OSS exponents, I’m sure you’ll agree that there are many OSS tools / skills that we use and develop (to differing degrees) over the years.

In fact, there are so many to choose from that we often have to make a conscious decision which ones to master and which ones to leave for others to master. Other times we have the decision thrust upon us.

When you have the chance to decide, do you choose from a perspective of craft or value?

Choosing by craft is analogous to already having a toolbelt with a hammer, a screwdriver and a glue gun, then choosing a nail-gun as the next tool to learn. They all fall into the same category of fasteners. They make you more proficient at choosing the right fastener for the job, but adding more to the list is unlikely to significantly increase the hourly rate a customer or employer will pay for your services. Whilst you’re more skilled, there are still a lot of others out there who can use fasteners. In fact, it can arguably be said that I can even use a few of those tools. They’re not really differentiators for you or your customer / employer.

Choosing by value, to extend on the analogy, is to add expertise as a builder, surveyor, draftsman, architect, etc in addition to the fastener skills you already have. They might be harder to attain, but that’s what increases differentiation. They’re perceived to be more valuable because they are perceived to play a more exclusive part in the final product that’s being offered to customers.

In OSS, if you can already program in five languages, does taking the time to learn a sixth significantly add value (to you or your value chain)? Sometimes perhaps. But if you were to spend the same amount of time to become more proficient at infrastructure or networks or team leadership, etc I suspect your contribution to the value fabric (ie customers, your team, etc) would increase far more… even if it didn’t immediately translate to a higher hourly rate.

The most invaluable people I’ve worked alongside in OSS, the valuable tripods, are proficient across many of OSS‘s domains and can link silos of expertise together. But that’s certainly not to devalue the importance of the craftspeople, as it’s their continued search for excellence that strengthens the silos, the foundations of OSS.

When you next have the chance to decide, will you choose from a perspective of craft or value?

Read the Passionate About OSS blog for more.

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