The Most Powerful Voices in Open Source

The Open Source community has many influential and important people. Yet some individuals tend to hold a bigger megaphone than the rest of us. Some of these people are well recognized while others exist in open source niches. But collectively they’re all the most vocal, followed and re-posted open source commentators in the community today. These are people you need to know.

In compiling our ranking of the most powerful voices in open source, we struggled to find the appropriate metrics to measure both broadcast power and profundity. After some lengthy discussions, we decided to create a Most Powerful Voices (MPV) formula to use as a yardstick. We finally settled on seven key dimensions based on input from a number of third party sites.

I believe we got the MPV formula right by asking the right questions.

We first set out to determine reach by examining the number of followers and buzz an individual has on sites like Twitter and Google. We then needed to determine how much impact an individual had with their followers and subscribers. We asked questions like: How often were they retweeted? How much buzz is created around their blog posts, tweets, and other messages? How often is the individual referenced in the blogosphere? Were they cited by influential people?

The MPV formula illustrates how much additional broadcast power an individual has versus an average active person (defined below). For example, Tim O’Reilly has 1.4 million times more broadcast power reach than the average person, while Mark Hinkle has a respectable 55 times more broadcast power than average.

The Top 20 Most Powerful Voices in Open Source

(see the table below for #21 – #50 and the top 10 per category)

MindTouch_most_powerful_voices

On Linus Torvalds

We actually debated whether to include Linus Torvalds due to his inactivity online. Torvald’s blog and Twitter feed are more about his family than open source communiqués. Yet we ultimately decided to include him because when he does communicate he generates a lot of attention. In fact, his recent purchase of a Google Nexus One generated an off the charts response.

The Rest of the Top 50

Keep in mind the High/Low rankings are relative to the others on the list. That means everyone on the list has a much higher criteria impact than the average active person. Note, most of the seven dimensions that make up the MPV are from the past 90 days.

RankNameFollowersListedOpen Source Blog BuzzWeb BuzzMPV Score

1

Tim OReilly (@timoreilly)1,430,4368739LowMedium1,400,659

2

Linus Torvalds5826382ScorchingScorching25,823

3

Chris Messina (@chrismessina)203801383LowVery High14,776

4

Jonathan Schwartz (@OpenJonathan)12462679MediumVery High10,046

5

Miguel de Icaza (@migueldeicaza)110501031HighVery High7,159

6

Glenn Hilton (@glennhilton)282171185LowLow3,251

7

@glynmoody / Glyn Moody 3219329MediumHigh3,224

8

Matt Asay (@mjasay)5593322MediumHigh3,006

9

Dries Buytaert (@dries)5414739LowHigh2,859

10

Guido van Rossum (@gvanrossum)8756777MediumHigh2,845

11

Christian Scholz (@mrtopf)2207105LowVery High2,820

12

Simon Phipps (@webmink)2244149MediumVery High2,640

13

Jono Bacon4193542LowHigh2,386

14

Ozgur Yuksel17453160LowLow2,330

15

Shelly Roche16760616LowMedium2,272

16

Randal L. Schwartz (@merlyn)6204765MediumMedium2,210

17

Channy Yun4770389LowMedium1,992

18

Rod Johnson (Spingrod) 2779236LowHigh1,894

19

Chris DiBona (@cdibona)9068663LowMedium1,713

20

Landon Cox18435303LowLow1,696

21

Stéphane ROBERT (@WebDevOnLinux)5363506LowMedium1,628

22

Michael Coté (@cote)3656207LowMedium988

23

William Hurley7726205LowMedium980

24

John Lilly 2609230LowMedium954

25

Sébastien Bilbeau4249363LowLow952

26

Marten Mickos1314109LowMedium931

27

Miriam Tuerk6642455LowMedium843

28

Atul Chitnis (@achitnis)2439168LowLow784

29

Ryan Paul (@segphault)1789171LowMedium711

30

Nat Friedman (@natfriedman)2183194LowMedium611

31

Guido Jansen354394LowMedium561

32

Sam Ramji (@sramji 79281MediumMedium424

33

David Schlesinger (@stonemirror)1231237LowMedium417

34

@ajturner / Andrew Turner2019184LowMedium372

35

John Dalton520131LowMedium335

36

Chris Harvey (@gnuchris)484784LowMedium326

37

Boris Mann (@bmann)2428211LowMedium299

38

Tim Kissane6376127LowLow268

39

Pia Waugh (@piawaugh)2207104LowLow246

40

Alon Swartz4697161LowLow223

41

Cheryl McKinnon (@CherylMcKinnon)1988117LowLow216

42

Brian Leroux (@brianleroux)1921116LowLow185

43

Lynne Pope (@elpie)2140125LowLow121

44

Jennifer Conley (@jenniferconley)179893LowLow115

45

Rami Taibah (@rtaibah)248397LowLow105

46

Aaron Roe Fulkerson (@roebot)1781111LowLow87

47

Mustafa K. Isik (@codesurgeon)2711111LowLow72

48

Jason Mayfield531320LowLow70

49

John LeMasney (@lemasney)256951LowLow62

50

Mark Hinkle1268159LowLow55

Follow the top 50 on Twitter with one click

Tim O’Reilly emerged uncontested, as the most powerful voice in open source by a very large margin. But there were a few surprises. Leo Laporte didn’t make the list (due to it not being his primary focus) while his FLOSS Weekly compadres Randal L. Schwartz and Jono Bacon did. Unfortunately only six women made the top 50. Such open source notables like Zack Urlocker, Jim Zemlin, Matt Aslett, Paula Hunter, Steve Purkiss and Savio Rodriguez narrowly missed making the list only to be outdone by their more social media savvy competitors.

Please note our ranking is not the final word on the subject but the beginning of a discussion. For example, does Tim O’Reilly really have more impact on open source than Linus Torvalds? Should Matt Asay be ranked higher than Chris Messina? Why isn’t Larry Augustin on the list? Did we miss anyone? What did we get wrong? Please give us your thoughts by commenting below.

Other MPV Criteria

  • Must be an active social media individual now (Buzz metrics were taken from last 90 days).
  • We didn’t include corporate twitter accounts. We’re looking for the voice of the individual.
  • Their primary focus is within the open source community.
  • We removed Irrelevant hits where necessary such as those for similarly-named individuals.
  • We’re defining the average active person as an active internet user with an average level of impact, influence and use of social tools.

Are you one of the Top 50 “Most Powerful Voices in Open Source”?

Add this badge to your site or blog to let people know that you are one of the most powerful voices in the open source community.

MindTouch Most Powerful Voice

<a href=”http://bit.ly/mvp-blog” title=”MindTouch Most Powerful Voice”><img src=”http://cdn.mindtouch.com/blog/mpv-badge.png” alt=”MindTouch Most Powerful Voice” border=”0″ ></a>

MindTouch Most Powerful Voice

<a href=”http://bit.ly/mvp-blog” title=”MindTouch Most Powerful Voice”><img src=”http://cdn.mindtouch.com/blog/mvp-2badge.png” alt=”MindTouch Most Powerful Voice” border=”0″ ></a>

3rd Party Sources Used for Our MPV Rankings

Follow MindTouch on Twitter image Follow Mark Fidelman on Twitter

61 Comments

  1. Interesting. I’m wondering why no-one from the Eclipse community (which no doubt is a very active OSS community) made it to this list. Have a look at http://wefollow.com/twitter/eclipse

  2. Wow, thanks for the mention, and the reminder that I need to do more of it!

  3. Thanks for the inclusion! I feel very honored to be listed alongside *my* heroes.

  4. Thanks for the mention Mark. Much appreciated.

  5. Thanks for the listing, I’m honoured. Folks from the Free Software community are a notable omission here. Have you considered also factoring in identi.ca? Also, you may want to add Topsy to your list of sources, they are very good indeed.

  6. Wow. What a steaming heap of dung this is! I’ve been on the board of the open source initiative since the beginning of open source, I’ve attended OSCON most of those years, I’ve written some major open source software, and I have NO IDEA who half these people are. No idea. “Most Powerful Voices?” Feh.

    • Russ – thanks for your reply. There are many suprising names on the list indeed, and the fact that there are quite a few ‘unknowns’ is a testament to what makes the open source community great – contributors at all levels and geographies have a voice – and should be recognized and applauded for flying the OSS flag.

  7. Wow, that’s kind of insane.

    Must be all those tweets about what I’m having for breakfast. ;)

    Thanks!

  8. Just wanted to tell you that your post is not rendering correctly on the BlackBerry Browser. Anyway, I’m now on the RSS feed on my laptop, so it shows!

  9. I am relieved I didn’t make this list as I’m just a reporter and not a player. The people to listen to are the players. I just cover the players and give people something to chew on at ZDNet.

    This list should be of interest and value to all reporters as it uncovers players you may not be aware of. If you know all 50, congratulations. If you don’t, bookmark this page.

  10. Wow, thanks for putting me on this list! Definitely others who deserve it more than I, though :)

  11. Sam Ramji does not belong on this list. He detracts from Free Open Source Software far more than he contributes to it.

  12. This is …. if you think Chris DiBona who helms Summer of Code has little voice then you are listening wrong.

  13. Real power lies in quality of information rather than loudness or repetition of voice, in the end. For exammple, voice of Mahatma Gandhi was weak and meek but very powerful. No body claims to have heard God’s voice, but Its Message is very powerful. Mostly,it is shallow-filled pitcher that can make more noise than a quiet fully-filled one. Of course, first-minute attention is caught by a loud-speaker but sustained attention is given to informative whispers and sigals.

  14. 15 years of FOSS promotion & I didn’t get on the same WEBSERVER as Linus. A bunch of tweets & I’m on the same page as him? Oye! :)

    Thanks for the mention, though – my daughter now thinks more of her daddy :) http://twitter.com/geetanjalic/status/10658600570

  15. No Doug Cutting? Is that search box up in the corner powered by Lucene? And did you process this data using Hadoop?

  16. I believe you have conflated “Most Powerful” with “Loudest”, and so your entire exercise is pretty much based on a false premise. Your metrics are worthless: basically, your MPV is roughly correlated to the number of followers, multiplied or divided by an ad-hoc low-integer fudge factor that you appear to have fabricated ex post facto on a case-by-case basis in order to produce results that matched your prejudged notions of what was sensible (aka “zomg how can we publish a list that says Linus isn’t influential that doesn’t make sense?”)

    When your initial results don’t give the answer you were expecting, you should reconsider your premises, because that’s how scientific research is done, rather than manipulate the results to arrive that the conclusion you wanted, because that’s how self-delusion is done.

    In this case, I’d say you should conclude that your inital hypothesis – that it is possible to infer how “influential” someone’s voice is in open source from a simple measure of the level of their web2.0rrhea – has pretty conclusively shown not to be supported by the evidence.

    (If you wish to disprove me, why don’t you try ANOVAing your results; I think you’ll find there’s two free variables in there, one of which will match the followers number and the other one of which will be your artificial fudge factor.)

  17. Interesting but…

    It is not clear to me what this survey is measuring.

    Is this about measuring who influences the development of open source or is it about evangelism?

    For example is this about Tim O’Reilly is widely followed, but his followers (if I can use that term) are in general less influential, he is, perhaps, in an evangelical role. On the other hand, Linus Torvalds is rather quieter but his followers include many of the Linux kernel maintainers, so he has tremendous influence over development.

    Another point is that not all listeners are equal. Having a few listeners who then actively persue your adgenda means you have a broader influence than somebody who has lots of passive liteners.

  18. Where is Richard Stallman?

    He doesn’t tweet so he doesn’t exist?

  19. @Jaydee: I wondered the same thing. Perhaps it’s that rms doesn’t count himself in the open source movement; certainly most everyone worth hearing out listens when rms speaks.

  20. Jaydee, the survey is more about broadcast capability and less about influence. MindTouch published the most influential in Open Source 2009 back in October http://mindtouch.com/blog/2009/10/27/most-influential-people-in-open-source/

    The individuals above carry a big megaphone. We in open source need them (and others) to help us spread the good word.

  21. Thanks for including me on the list. I feel very humble and honoured to be countered among such an august group. It’s also a good reminder that I need to pop out of my hole more when I am coding and not ignore social networking (and my blog) when I’m busy.

  22. Wow no richard stallman

  23. Thanks for the mention, much appreciated.

  24. Hi, I proposed to get identi.ca counted within your list… Here we go:

    “Featured users” :
    Greg Kroah-Hartmann, http://identi.ca/gregkh (202 subscribers) [Linux Kernel Dev]
    Joe (Zonker) Brockmeier, http://identi.ca/jzb (682 subsribers) [fmr. OpenSUSE Comm. Mangager]
    Stormy Peters, http://identi.ca/storming (774 subscribers) [GNOME Foundation exec. Member]
    Jono Bacon, http://identi.ca/jonobacon (1364 subscribers) [UBUNTU Comm. Manager]
    Aaron Seigo, http://identi.ca/aseigo (704 subscribers) [fmr KDE.EV Manager and Lead Dev.]
    Richard (inevitable) Matthew Stallman, http://identi.ca/rms (2201 subscribers) [GNU/FSF Leader]
    Lydia (Nightrose) Pintscher, http://identi.ca/nightrose (142 subscribers) [KDE Comm Manager]

    That was it for now… IF you want to get the real results of broadcasting power than you’ll have to check all different “PLANETS”… aka planetkde.org, planet.gnome.org, planet.gnu.org, graphicsplanet.org etc….

    and others are listed on different platforms as well…

  25. One thought would be Cory Doctorow. While he’s typically more associated with creative commons, he continues to be an important advocate for the Open Source movement, both via twitter (48K+ followers), boingboing, and his various journalistic projects.

  26. hmm, this list exercise smells of self-promotion and page generation. While the people on the list are certainly notable, the list is by no means complete and the ranking is debatable. The people who are on the list are invited to place a huge badge on their site, with most of the badge consisting of mindtouch's corporate name and logo.

    Smells like…marketing…. (or bacon… whatever has more ham in it…)

  27. DaveK has it right, “powerful” is the wrong adjective to use for this exercise. Cutting the data to include only the last 3 months and only web2ish technologies yields a very significant difference in meaning from the headline. You missed the mark.

  28. The data for the last 3 months was only a small component in the MPV formula. The 90 day window is relevant because we were looking for current broadcasters and not inactive ones.

  29. I was thrilled to be included on this list. I think the work to get the word out on the viability of open source software is one of the ways I get to give back. Thanks for the recognition!

  30. Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  31. You missed ESR (Eric S. Raymond) http://catb.org/~esr/

  32. haha. my boss Shelly Roche is on the top of the list— The Top 20 Most Powerful Voices in Open Source
    congrats

  33. IMPORTANT ITEM: I noticed a LARGE error in the first "Tower of Influece" image. Mr. Tim O'Reilley's MPV = 1,400,659 or 1.4M, the highest,, surpassing the Linux founder by two orders of magnitude at 25,600. However, Ozgur Yuksel, PhD,'s MPV = 2,300.000 (2.3Mil) more that Mr. Reilly, yet Yuksel was at the bottom of the pile!

  34. Part 2
    In the data table,, O.Yuksel's MPV = 2,330, or 0.002M. This would make more intuitive sense. So 2.3K is the correct value, not 2.3M, and should be corrected. No one noticed this error, 1 Mil x too large, in 4 mths?

    Don't miscontrue my intent. These charts, followed by methodology documentation (assuming it was provided) makes excellent teaching material for students. I'm a statistician, not a teacher, but have tutored. It really helps for kids to see role-models in the sciences who are nicely photographed, smiling and neatly dressed. Not many charts do that. There is truth to some of @DaveK's comments. For teaching, that's okay, and provides realism, to determine the best design criteria for one's analysis of the study variables. Admittedly, influence is subtle and despite machine learning+sentiment analysis, remains difficult to quantify.

  35. Thank you for the list. I'm really surprised to hear that there are too many comparisons have provided the voice and powerful, but actually it is not the most important problem that have a combination of all factors such as personality , community relations, and not be shaken before the challenges and difficulties of the job. If told to compare the Most Powerful Voices in open source…….can't comment. Thank for your sharing this post.

  36. Hello i try to open your blog in safari and its looks funny, i tink that the problem is from your hosting ,or maybe from me but still you have a nice setup for the ads, i writing in this post because you will see it when you are validating comments, Keep up the good work Joreon from Nederland

  37. Open source ? why o why do the masses still follow MS like blind sheep!! come on people wake up and stop being so lazy. If only there was a true focal voice for open source community or do we keep it to ourselves? mmmm?

  38. great infographic! Open source is no longer the future. Open source is the present

  39. Good point on Stallman, should definitely be there as the one true defender of Open Source… Last but not least, Matt Mullenweg for unleashing the blogosphere beast of WordPress?!?

    Funny, I see a WordPress button right below the comments section, but not worth a mention.

  40. You leave out Stallman and include de Icaza – Microsoft’s chief shill??? Odd priorities. Do you use OsX on Apple for your work as well?

  41. You’ll find that Stallman is a powerful voice of Free Software, not Open Source: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html

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