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Giving Back: An Open Source Initiative

, 13 Jun 2013
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An Open Source initiative.
Open source projects are a vital part of the software ecosystem. They provide an important balancing point by keeping for-profit companies in check. For example, Windows has Linux, Microsoft Office has Open Office, and Oracle has MySQL. Additionally, open source projects have helped to further other segments of the industry. For instance, Firefox shined a bright light on web browsers and pushed others to follow in their footsteps. This has spurred other developments including Apple's WebKit and Google Chrome. Other projects such as jQuery have helped to re-invigorate JavaScript and breathe new life into a once dying concept. At this point, the contributions of open source have provided the ability to build an end-to-end solution. Think about how to build a website from the ground up. It can be on a Linux server, running Apache, with a MySQL database, developed in PHP and jQuery using GEdit (notepad), and tested using Firefox. All of this without ever paying a dime. Although this sounds amazing, too many individuals abuse the system. It's important to respect the work that came before and the work yet to come. Everyone should be implored to give back.

Some might say, "I don't use open source software." Although this might be true, most people don't realize the products that are part of everyday life. Look at all the previous examples and add one more to that list... Android. Anything mobile that isn't Apple is most likely Android. Giving back to the open source community is imperative to ensure its continued existence. This can be broken down into two categories: money and time/knowledge.

Money
The old schoolhouse adage "There's no such thing as a free lunch" still holds true. Open source communities require funds to manage day-to-day expenses and longer-term initiatives. For some, opening their wallet is easy. To those individuals, please donate regularly and often. For everyone else, consider requesting a donation from one's place of business. Many businesses utilize this market as a cheap means to success but forget to give back once that success is achieved. Maintain a catalog of each open-source product used. This is a helpful reminder about the benefits of open-source. Request a recurring budget for donations to these and similar projects. Another option for business is to provide an employee donation match to maximize the donations of their charitable employees.

Time/Knowledge
Unlike the prior recommendation, developers can give back by contributing their time and/or knowledge to the community. These contributions include:

  • Building third party tools or expanding existing functionality
  • Providing quality assurance testing to ensure all bugs are found and cataloged
  • Working on bug fixes to reported issues
  • Championing products by encouraging adoption through the spread of positive feedback
  • Helping build documentation about a product's functionality
  • Proofreading documentation to ensure its accuracy
  • Translating documentation into other languages
  • Converting source-code from one platform to another
  • Expanding localization for other languages and regions
  • Providing constructive feedback about features and functionality
  • Recommending enhancements of all shapes and sizes

Take a minute today and find a way to give back!

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

About the Author

Zac Gery

United States United States
Software Developer, Mentor, Architect and UX/UI craftsman. Also, a psychology nut that loves curling.
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GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberVolynsky Alex13-Jun-13 20:57 

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