The Finnish Concept of 'talkoot' in Software Development

Reetta Vaahtoranta on


A couple of weeks ago the whole Mammal team attended Monki Gras, a conference that this year focused on what Nordic cultures can teach us about the practice of software development. I was interested in Janne Kalliola’s talk that discussed a Finnish concept 'talkoot' in relation to software development. Having just entered the tech industry myself, this talk made me think about the cultures that I have encountered.

The Concept of 'Talkoot'

'Talkoot' is a really interesting way of thinking about software development. It describes voluntarily coming together with your neighbours to work on something for the good of the neighbourhood. It is associated with a strong sense of community: participating in 'talkoot' is not seen as a chore but it is something fun.

Janne talked about how 'talkoot' plays an important role in the software development industry and how it helps us to think about contributing to open-source software. Open-source development is by nature voluntary, developers can send in pull-requests for the projects they wish to work on, fixing bugs or building features that they themselves find important or interesting without being told by someone to do this. So we can think of contributing to open-source software as participating in the life of community, as coming together to build or improve something used by that community. 'Talkoot' highlights how participating in open-source development is not a chore but it can be fun.

Community in the Tech Industry

I think that there is also another important aspect of open-source development and the software industry in general that 'talkoot' can help us to reflect on that Janne did not talk about. It is important to pay attention to all that which makes participating in 'talkoot' possible in the software industry.

Participating in a virtual 'talkoot' requires that there exists a community we can get involved with, and that we can work in an environment that gives us the luxury of time to participate in 'talkoot' and that does not leave us too exhausted to participate in 'talkoot'. Coming from a different kind of work-environment, I know that these kinds of conditions do not always exist, and that I am pretty lucky to be able to work in an industry that is doing so well.

Right now the tech industry is doing well. Doing work that is creative, dynamic and interesting allows for the luxury of participating in 'talkoot'. I hope that the industry can continue to stay this way even when conditions change.