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Open Source is kinda weird

25 August 2013

“Side projects, yo!”, “Are you going to Open Source it?”, “Is it on GitHub yet?”, “Please don’t make another one; contribute to an existing OS project”, “Have a full time job and you create Open Source projects? Congratulations, now you have two full time jobs.”

Everyone talks about the amazing sides to being involved with Open Source; as we all know, there are many. You can be a complete beginner on the web, have no client experience to speak of any yet, you could contribute to the Bootstrap project on GitHub and affect a ton of sites out there.

High impact, high exposure.

Another MV* framework…really?

James Padolsey put this way better than I’m going to attempt to, in his post, “There is no directive”. A tl;dr if you don’t want to read the whole thing is roughly:

“We’re all running around solving problems that we care about and discovering new things to improve our understanding of the world, and that’s wonderful. We’re not automatons working in unison towards an absolute.”

The interpretation I had of this, was that if you have an idea for something, it probably already exists in some form, so instead of creating a new [x], you should contribute that idea to “already-existing-solution” [y]. That just doesn’t sit right with me.

This paradigm of thinking echoes throughout the development world; not so much in other industries. Apple built the iPod as a competitor to other music players. Audi built their cars to knock down the long standing reign of other manufacturers. Are we not supposed to challenge each other, come up with our own, better solutions? Think Backbone.js is crap, go build a better one! Think Bootstrap is balls, match it!


Another thing is guilt, goddamnit.

Jacob “Fat” Thornton outlines this in his talk, entitled, “What Is Open Source & Why Do I Feel So Guilty?”. Once something is put on GitHub and people start using this library/software, people will send support requests, feature ideas and file issues. Maintaining this is a real commitment. Dan Eden explains this on his Animate.css issue list.

A measure of a developer

Once a service picks up popularity and becomes the “defacto”, it’s really hard not to judge a developer based on their activity on this service. It seems that the new way to judge a potential employee (for a development position) is to check their GitHub activity and Open Source contributions. Is this right?

It’s true that it does seem a good way to judge someone based off of this; if they contribute to Open Source, they deeply care about the web industry. However, they aren’t mutually exclusive; someone doesn’t have to be on GitHub to be a good developer or care about the web industry. However, the bonus of having a full GitHub profile, is that you have a free development portfolio and your code is available for people to see. Win win.

I just think we need to be careful about judging developers too harshly if they choose not to contribute to Open Source and put all their code on GitHub.

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