It might have taken almost three decades of development but OpenSource software is firmly mainstream use for most companies now. The unique value which comes from software which has been developed through open communities has been recognised and people are welcoming its use.
Companies that adopt and use open source are in a prime position to contribute and give back to the open source communities that they depend on. Sadly though, many companies (especially small businesses) tend to lean towards consumption and not contribution. For example a recent survey of the Liferay community found that almost 75% of people and companies that responded did not reward or encourage contribution to open source networks. 2016 is the year to change this and give back to the communities which have helped your business.
The reason that businesses do not contribute back to open source is generally because companies believe that contributing takes a lot of time and will be time spent away from contributing and achieving their own company’s goals. Others fear that open source participation will give away competitive intellectual property. Why you should contribute to open source
It is free on-the-job training
It takes time to resolve issues, fix bugs, implement new features, prepare codes, test them and work with your development team to make changes to a codebase. But in doing these tasks employees are learning about sound software engineering practices alongside communication, teamwork, quality assurance and leadership skills which is a win-win situation for both the company and their staff. Development teams only have so much time to help with issues and by learning things yourself you can implement some tasks without having to bother anyone else. As staffs expertise develop through the participation in open source they will become more efficient in using the software which can reduce costs for future development and maintenance.
Participation in open source will impress potential employees and customers
It isn’t just a company’s bottom line which will sway a business from working with you. By participating and forming a relationship with open source communities it sends a strong positive signal to both current and new potential customers that you are willing to invest your time and effort into the mutual benefits surrounding open source. If you’re willing to invest in open source then you’re likely to invest time and effort into working with them. How to start contributing to open source
As a company you don’t need to go all in straight away with open source contributions, although you can if you wish. Traditional things such as features, documentation, bug reports, forum contribution, patches and translations are a great place to start. There are lots of ways to begin contributing to open source including:
- Speak at a technical conference
- Partner with an open source project for a case study
- Blog about the adoption and contribution to open source
- Offer to host meet-ups for the project
- Participate in or donate to foundations which are associated with some projects including Eclipse Foundation and OSI
It doesn’t take a lot but participating in open source is a great way to build your business and should be a goal for 2016. Your participation will have long lasting positive effects on your company, staff, the open source communities and future business collaborations.