• Matthew Kaufman

Open Source Life

Open source projects...they're fascinating.

An Open Source Project is a project, generally within tech, that is open for any to contribute. It’s a massive collaboration project that typically transcends language, ideology, and all other barriers. It’s this mass grouping of people, all working hand in hand attempting, to try to create something that they can all use. This may seem like a pipe dream or some utopian society, but it’s incredibly common within the tech sphere.

So how and why do these Open Source Projects even work or exist inside of tech? How is it that the tech world can have these giant collaboration projects constantly and not have too many issues? The answer is pretty simple. It starts with not wanting to reinvent the wheel. So if you want a program that performs a task, you go out shopping for one. Us programmers, we like to search for open source ones because we can then validate at a glance or two if the person who wrote it actually knows what they’re doing or if they’re just slamming their face onto the keyboard until the code compiles. So once you find one you like, you go ahead and download it and presto, it works. But you already knew it would. Because it’s open source, it’s both free and there’s never a question of quality. This is important to remember for later.

So you’ve downloaded the application, you’ve been using it and it’s great. You love it but there’s something that you wish it had. Maybe you want it to have a dark theme. Maybe you want to be able to save or load a different file type. Whatever it is, it’s a feature you’d like to be added. If you’re a programmer, you get to thinking, “Well I already have all the code to run this application and I can look around and see how it

specifically works. Implementing the feature I want shouldn’t be that hard since I know what it is that I want and since I can look around at how this is all built anyways.” So you spend some time building out the feature for yourself. It’s not some pure altruistic motive. It’s just a desire to be able to have something that you don’t currently have. It’s a natural reaction after all. If you already have all the tools, the materials, and the thing you want is already built just about how you want, it’s only human nature to think to just customize it a bit to better suit your tastes and have it your way. This ability to customize is incredibly important and will also be good for remembering later.

So you’ve customized it and it is now perfection. You love the application even more now. Then somewhere online, when you were still working on customizing it, you remember reading about other people who wanted this feature as well. So you, being the beautiful benevolent genius who built this feature, decide to take mercy on those

who also want this feature and submit your new additional code to the original application’s source code. They review it, see that a bunch of other people want the feature, make sure that your solution is well built, and then they add it in the program formally. You pat yourself on your back knowing you’ve done good in this world and also get the pride that comes from now having your name in the credits of the application. You can list it on your resume that you’ve submitted contributed to that application. Who knows, maybe the person who interviews you for your next job might use that application and if they know that you helped build it, even in some minor way, it may sway them to immediately trust your abilities that much more. It builds personal credibility.

So let’s review, open source projects are: free; always of good quality because you can see what you’re getting and how it’s built; highly customizable to suit your personal needs; and they can help you build your credibility and reputation. When phrased this way, it’s no wonder they’re so popular within the tech field. They’re like magic bullets that can solve almost any problem and they will never run out because you are occasionally helping the supply. There’s nothing pure about this and most of the reason you want to use an open source project is generally a selfish reason.

Who knows? Maybe this open source phenomenon can spread to the rest of life in some way.

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