Overnight flight to Boston. DrupalCon. My third. The first one was kind of magical, back in 2006, Vancouver BC, getting the real buzz for the first time. I haven't been able to explain very well to my non-geek peers how awesome this software project is, which is a shame. Because it really is pretty rad.
To wit: some Belgan computer science students started working on a system for their dorm-hall community to use to stay in touch after graduation. Eight years later the open-source software, Drupal, is powering hundreds of thousands of websites, including bigshots like The Onion, MTV UK and others. But that's not even the cool part.
The truly awesome thing about this project is that it's been built by literally thousands of people. For free. There are a core cadre of a few hundred or so coders who do a lot of this, most of them (like me) making a living off it in one way or another, and an even smaller group of legendary developers at the center of all of it. But it happens openly, as a community affair, and it works in large part people people are friends over it, taking pleasure from working on something together.
This is what open-source is really all about to me. It's the recognition that programming is an act of creativity, and the growth of communities of creators around their project. It's no coincidence that many Drupalists have artistic backgrounds; it has many aspects of a theatrical troup, of a band.
This is a kind of cultural production that's really new. Never before have people been able to be intellectually creative in this way and on this scale, and it's deeply gratifying to be a part of this scene, exploring a new mode of association and camaraderie, proving that the ethos of a community can outperform that of a corperation.