Note to Contributors: Feel free to redistribute that article or reuse it in any manner, as long as it’s for the good of the Open Source community.
Using Open Source software for more than 10 years now and contributing to various Open Source projects, I would like to state the values of Contributing to everyone in the industry.
I will use WordPress as an example below, but this would apply to every project and platform (including Linux, OpenOffice, Android, etc.).
According to TheFreeDictionary, contribute is:
To give or supply in common with others; give to a common fund or for a common purpose.
Contributing online content is one of the easiest and effortless ways to give back. The reason is that, unlike when contributing money or goods, you could build a software, documentation, graphics for yourself and sharing it with countless users around the world at the same time. There are no limits of your product and you don’t lose ownership and the right to use it yourself, which is the initial purpose.
Sharing software and knowledge is not uncommon to the world. Even if you consider your Windows or OS X completely corporate, this is not entirely true. Microsoft is actively contributing open source and consecutively opening it’s .NET framework for open use. Apple’s OS X inherits UNIX.
Have you seen IBM’s developerWorks branch? Thousands of resources and projects given back to the community. NASA is also using open source. Oracle donated OpenOffice to Apache and still maintain and improve MySQL.
WordPress is the largest Open Source CMS used by 18.9% of the top 10 million websites as of August 2013. WordPress.com, being built on the top of WordPress, is the 8th most visited website in the US, right after eBay and Amazon.
Open Source projects are not only about the code. You can help the projects you use by contributing with graphics, support, documentation, translations, submitting bug reports, requesting features, and so much more. Organizations such as Coursera offer massive open online courses to everyone for the sake of improving the industry.
I am asking all of my clients to consider contributing their plugin or solution to the open source world whenever applicable. Here there are several perks I would offer when you agree to get your product contributed back.
- Getting your name out. As I mentioned above, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and hundreds of thousands of big companies are using and contributing to the Open Source community. It costs you nothing to get your extra feature contributed and linked to your account/website as a reference.
- Helping other people. Your feature does not exist yet. But your extension would probably be running on a Linux server, over PHP/Python/Ruby, with a MySQL database, and you are using other Open Source products as well. It would have been way more expensive to run that if those products didn’t exist. So you could help other people saving time by using your feature too.
- Getting updates for free. A year later, few platform versions ahead your product might need fine tuning or an update to run properly again. By actively contributing to the Open Source industry, I will maintain your product as long as possible and provide you with free software updates so that your product is always in tact with the environment.
- Getting features for free. Everyone could contribute to an open source product. I could decide to introduce a small feature as an addition to the original product. Other developers could build extensions on the top of it, and other customers could pay for extra features as well. You will get that for free, for no cost, and everyone would get a better and more functional end product.
- My formal and practical “thanks”. On behalf of the Open Source community, I will be grateful for your decision. On my own, I will take care of documenting the code properly, adding some reasonable documentation and improve it in the best possible manner. For larger products I will add an extra feature for you or discount a few hours from the invoice – isn’t that great too?
Thank you for reading the Manifesto and considering joining the Open Source world.