January 26th, 2009

Why i do open source

The explosion of open-source phenomenon in the last decade has spanned hundreds of thousands of projects, millions of people and uncounted hours being poured into what some see as ideology, and some see as an integral part of building one’s career. Each participant in the open-source ranks has his own unique reasons for doing so, and mine can be simplified to only four words – the freedom to learn.

Nobody is perfect, and everybody makes mistakes. Harnessing the collective power of community participants with diverse background, experience and coding approach, together with not being afraid to make mistakes and learn from them is a unique aspect of open-source. We are extremely lucky to live in the nascent age of broadband Internet access which allows building truly global communities. All you need to do is to be truly open to two-way and completely transparent communication, to see that the criticism on your code is not a personal attack against you but rather a momentous chance to improve your coding skills, and to always be willing to learn from the best in your field of interest.

Even in the times when the opportunities to learn and grow are almost infinite, you can easily get stuck in your comfort zone. Recognize and nourish your inner curiosity, and constantly seek tangential knowledge that might not seem readily applicable to what you are currently doing. As the old saying goes, the more you know, the more you realize that you don’t know anything. It is going to be a self-feeding cycle of continuous improvement of your domain and general knowledge.

Finally, open-source offers a unique opportunity to exercise significant degree of control over your projects. With less stricter development processes, you can employ more freedom in moving your projects forward even when it comes at the expense of breaking backwards compatibility and making some of your users unhappy. Be truly committed to maintaining transparent communication channels and always ready to explain every single decision. A bad decision can always be reverted – and you will have plenty to learn in the process.  An unpopular yet right decision will stand the test of time and might prove a source of knowledge and inspiration to those that come after you.

Curiosity, community and control are my answer to the question why i do open source. Combined together, they provide a unique and ever changing blend of intellectual satisfaction from the ever expanding sea of knowledge that is waiting at your fingertips. Open your mind and be free to learn.


Andres and Alex – you are next. I would love to read about why are you doing open-source; and feel free to spread the meme :)