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How does a company harness the efforts of outsiders who want to contribute to its software, without making things too unwieldy and difficult to manage within its own framework?

In the case of the open source company, SUSE, that sells a Linux distribution of the same name, the solution has been to create a community distribution, called openSUSE. The project kicked off in 2005, some time after Novell had bought the SUSE Linux company, which until then had been releasing code only about two months after a release had gone on sale.

As users of Linux turned more and more to the internet to download their distribution of choice, the model of selling a release as boxed sets and CDs became unprofitable; openSUSE was set up in order to serve as a development hot-house and spread the use of the distribution.

Andreas Jaeger (pictured above), the project manager for openSUSE, says that the appearance of Canonical's Ubuntu on the scene in October 2004 was a factor in spurring the creation of openSUSE.

Jaeger, who is in Orlando to attend the annual SUSECON, told iTWire that the aim of setting up openSUSE was to engage the community in the development process. He has been involved in openSUSE right from day one.

There are a number of employees of SUSE who are involved in the openSUSE project; there are also many outsiders who play a vital role. Jaeger says the project has a six-member board plus a chairman, with the latter being appointed by SUSE. The direction that the project takes is entirely determined by the project itself.

"The chairman has veto power, but so far has never had to exercise it," he said. "And I hope this never happens."

At the beginning there were about 10 to 15 people who decided how the project would be run, according to Jaeger. But they were not dedicated to this task alone. Later a dedicated openSUSE booster team, made up of 15 employees of SUSE, became active.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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