Your Company Should Engage in Open Source
Open Source software plays a big role in today´s software industry. From newborn startups to tech giants like Google and Apple and it represents a big deal on the way these companies develop their code and products.
I´m not going to argue in this article about how great it is for companies to use OS software (that’s mostly obvious). Instead, I´m going to dissert here why I do think that your company should engage in contributing to OS code and how healthy a culture it is to encourage and sponsor this kind of participation among your developers.
Cultural & Communication Growth
First, OS projects are often maitained by dozens/hundreds/thousands of developers from all around the Earth, from the most varied backgrounds. This creates a huge opportunity for everyone to learn with their different experiences. You always face approaches to problems that you haven’t nearly thought about alone.
Participation in Open Source also helps you grow your communication skills. Every successfully OS software is run by people with very good communication skills, constantly using their arguments and visions to push the project forward. Communication is a fundamental component to OSS development. And so it is to your company.
One of the most compelling reasons to give back to Open Source is that it makes you learn to code better. Reading the Ruby on Rails (1) source code makes me learn a lot about Metaprogramming. Learning the inner gears of jQuery (2) will surely help a front-end developer leverage his capabilities of dealing with the DOM and Event Driven Development, and there’s no better way to learn to code something than getting your hands dirty with it.
Visibility & Reputation Growth
Many companies have – happily – already learned that: OSS engagement grows the company’s reputation in the market. This is specially notable for consulting companies. Often, these are hired by other tech companies, with good technically-backgrounded people who’ll be more confident in the delivery efficiency of your team if they can see good OS code written by it. It is almost a deal-maker.
Feasibility & Final Notes
As you’re in the Software Industry an you know it’s a very competitive market, you must think about the feasibilty of OS contribution in your company. How many work hours will it take? How much energy and resources will your team have to allocate for it? These are important questions whose answers differ from one group to another.
I suggest that you allocate a given number of hours weekly, in a defined date, for grouping everyone together to develop a project of interest or contribute to an existing one. Preferably, the one that everybody works more with.
Or, if possible within your limitations, you can create a regular Dojo/Kata (3)/(4) and even invite developers from other organizations to yours. Great ideas may grow when talented hackers get together to build something.
I am sure that engaging in Open Source is totally healthy for your company. There’s so much profit for your team to benefit from when investing in OS. And we have Google, GitHub, Twitter, PlataformaTec and many more as evidences.
Rodrigo Alves Vieira is a 19 year-old hacker from Paulista, Brazil. He studies Computer Science at UFPE. Read more about him.