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

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
1Tim OReilly (@timoreilly)1,430,4368739LowMedium1,400,659
2Linus Torvalds5826382ScorchingScorching25,823
3Chris Messina (@chrismessina)203801383LowVery High14,776
4Jonathan Schwartz (@OpenJonathan)12462679MediumVery High10,046
5Miguel de Icaza (@migueldeicaza)110501031HighVery High7,159
6Glenn Hilton (@glennhilton)282171185LowLow3,251
7@glynmoody / Glyn Moody 3219329MediumHigh3,224
8Matt Asay (@mjasay)5593322MediumHigh3,006
9Dries Buytaert (@dries)5414739LowHigh2,859
10Guido van Rossum (@gvanrossum)8756777MediumHigh2,845
11Christian Scholz (@mrtopf)2207105LowVery High2,820
12Simon Phipps (@webmink)2244149MediumVery High2,640
13Jono Bacon4193542LowHigh2,386
14Ozgur Yuksel17453160LowLow2,330
15Shelly Roche16760616LowMedium2,272
16Randal L. Schwartz (@merlyn)6204765MediumMedium2,210
17Channy Yun4770389LowMedium1,992
18Rod Johnson (Spingrod) 2779236LowHigh1,894
19Chris DiBona (@cdibona)9068663LowMedium1,713
20Landon Cox18435303LowLow1,696
21Stéphane ROBERT (@WebDevOnLinux)5363506LowMedium1,628
22 Michael Coté (@cote)3656207LowMedium988
23William Hurley7726205LowMedium980
24John Lilly 2609230LowMedium954
25Sébastien Bilbeau4249363LowLow952
26Marten Mickos1314109LowMedium931
27Miriam Tuerk6642455LowMedium843
28Atul Chitnis (@achitnis)2439168LowLow784
29Ryan Paul (@segphault)1789171LowMedium711
30Nat Friedman (@natfriedman)2183194LowMedium611
31Guido Jansen354394LowMedium561
32Sam Ramji (@sramji 79281MediumMedium424
33David Schlesinger (@stonemirror)1231237LowMedium417
34@ajturner / Andrew Turner2019184LowMedium372
35John Dalton520131LowMedium335
36Chris Harvey (@gnuchris)484784LowMedium326
37Boris Mann (@bmann)2428211LowMedium299
38Tim Kissane6376127LowLow268
39Pia Waugh (@piawaugh)2207104LowLow246
40Alon Swartz4697161LowLow223
41Cheryl McKinnon (@CherylMcKinnon)1988117LowLow216
42Brian Leroux (@brianleroux)1921116LowLow185
43Lynne Pope (@elpie)2140125LowLow121
44Jennifer Conley (@jenniferconley)179893LowLow115
45Rami Taibah (@rtaibah)248397LowLow105
46Aaron Roe Fulkerson (@roebot)1781111LowLow87
47Mustafa K. Isik (@codesurgeon)2711111LowLow72
48Jason Mayfield531320LowLow70
49John LeMasney (@lemasney)256951LowLow62
50Mark 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.

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3rd Party Sources Used for Our MPV Rankings

Additional categories: Industry Trends, News & Events